Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An open letter to Christianity Today and Mark Driscoll

Nearly a year ago I finished my three year project about femininity and the ways men and women's souls are distinct (Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home). Since then I've discovered that it's not just women wrestling with their gender. Men are as confused about what makes them masculine. Men feel like they've got something to prove as well. A friend sent me this video from a blog. I watched it, did not do any other research on the speaker and commented on the blog. I was told by aforesaid blogger that I clearly didn't know enough about the speaker to comment. Since then I've read a bit more about Mark Driscoll in a Christianity Today article that was, as Mr. Driscoll writes in his own blog "a fair story." So while I'm not a Driscoll-expert, I have read enough to make a comment on the way he views "femininity.”

I’m not out to slam Mr. Driscoll. I admire his verve, his boldness to confront and his quickness to ask forgiveness. I believe he loves Christ deeply, whole-heartedly. But I believe his view is incorrect.

I believe he's using his gifts to pin men with more responsibility than God intended for them to handle and to distance women even farther from coming home to their femininity. Mr. Driscoll represents a common attitude and belief in conservative Christianity that needs to be addressed.

The worst part is that I don't think Mr. Driscoll has any idea of what he's doing.

For thousands of years, and even in some chauvinistic cultures today, men must vie against one another to prove they are "real men." In America, you might see it clearly on the inner city streets of large cities. In the gang culture there is a basic barbaric maxim: honor is a slice of one pie. You get a slice not by loving Christ or living in obedience, but by robbing someone else of a slice. You get a slice of honor by shaming someone else out of theirs. Mr. Driscoll, it so happens, grew up on these streets, under this maxim.

This code of living isn't gone from Mr. Driscoll's logic. He might be right that many Christian men are too passive. He might be correct that churches are often tacky. But to win back the honor for men he's stolen a slice of honor from women. He shames women by using "feminine" as a slur against men and women. I've used and defined feminine elsewhere to mean "the unique, unfallen ways God shows himself on earth in women….femininity is the way females are made in God's image." But Mr. Driscoll doesn't agree. He uses "feminine" as an invective, as a catch-all for the ways women are chickifying, tackifying, passifying (as if any of these are essential feminine attributes!) the church. Check out this video and note the way he spits the word out. I don't care if his church is growing; it's a barbaric, fallen, destructive move. From his words, I can only surmise that innovative, young men count more than faithful Church-attending women. He doesn't need to shame women to elevate men. But even in our Christian culture, he's been given a slice of pie.

I shouldn't be surprised that I'm offended. I read that Mr. Driscoll offends lots of people. His justification, “Dude, this is what Jesus said.”

I'm going to take Mr. Driscoll and Jesus seriously here. I want to list some of the ways Mr. Driscoll has unjustly accused men and women. It's up to him, I believe, to show the link between his offensiveness and Christ.

  • Where does Jesus teach or model that males are going to create the culture of the future?
  • Where does Jesus say that 20-25 year old males are the only innovators in his church?
  • Where does Jesus says that tacky church colors or architecture are inherently feminine?
  • Where does Jesus say that "soft-spokeness" in a man makes him feminine? Where does Scripture say women who are soft-spoken are feminine? (Peter says it's a 'gentle and quiet spirit,' not a 'gentle and quiet' mouth.(I Pet 3:4)
  • Where does Jesus (or Scripture) say that men are supposed to protect women by leading them in church and family? Wasn't the first provider God, then Eve who provided herself to Adam? I realize Scripture says the husband is the head of the wife. But this is a hotly debated, flexible and freeing metaphor, one in which we need both men and women's metaphorical intelligence to interpret and then apply.
  • Where does Jesus say slaughter, fighting, intimidation are earmarks of a "real man"?
  • Where does Jesus say that emotion is a mark of femininity? Mr. Driscoll is himself highly emotional, but he is not less masculine.
  • Where does Jesus say that slow-moving, inefficient forms of government (church boards, Congress, committees) are inherently feminine?
  • Where does Jesus say the fruits of the Spirit are more pink than blue? Supposedly self-control, patience, gentleness, joy, peace are more feminine than masculine?

Mr. Driscoll is not only familiar with street culture. He's also been trained—by his admission—on John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Because of their teaching on women, Mr. Driscoll is going to believe the Holy Spirit gives out pink and blue spiritual gifts. According to their manual Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood a woman who has the gift of teaching and exhorting must limit her authority to women and children of the church. For problems in this view see "Unmuted." Mr. Driscoll will not be a believer in women who can expound, preach, lead or innovate in church. I'm not sure what Mr. Driscoll would say of the innovative leaders like Deborah in Judges, Priscilla in Acts, Nancy Beach, Anne Graham Lotz, Nancy Ortberg, Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice. I have a feeling he wouldn't be complimentary.

Mr. Driscoll is another unfortunate example of theology that justifies strict gender roles wedded to a fallen male-driven honor culture. The mixture is toxic, not just for women, but for the men who must now take all responsibility for success or failure. Not even God thought Adam should handle all that.

Mr. Driscoll and I agree, churches need help, marriages need help, men and women need help. Mr. Driscoll's targeted passive, 'feminized' men as the real problem. I'll be quick to admit that it is wonderful when men take ownership of problems, when they love their wives, when they show all the fruits of the Spirit. But because the complementarian/patriarchal culture makes men the leaders, the tie-breakers in marriage and the final arbiters and authority in churches, his culture must, ipso facto, hold the men responsible at all times.

I believe Christ wanted something better. Take a moment and think of the healthy marriages you know. Don't they function with more equality? Women are given final say and authority in many areas because (as all healthy men know) women are gifted and knowledgeable about life too and understand some areas better than men. Even Jesus thought so when he made women the first preachers of his resurrection. So, please let's not assume men are responsible for church problems that span beyond their gender (Sure it's tempting to tag it all on men, it easily absolves me of responsibility and action--before I studied femininity, I would've flocked to Mr. Driscoll's church and signed off on my character and career goals, too).

Assuming responsibility is a mark of healthy humans—men and women—not of "real men." Anytime a man is using his masculinity he will increase the health of the church. But the same applies to women. Men who own up to their mistakes and accept responsibility are a breath of fresh air, but let's not confuse healthy humanity with masculinity. The most masculine man I know is my husband, but his masculinity is measured, not by how many slices of pie he's stolen from other men, not how many deals and conflicts his won, not by the authority or leadership he demonstrates, but by how much he is like Christ—in both tenderness and strength.

Masculinity is no savior of the church. It wasn't even Jesus' masculinity that saved us, it was his deity and sacrifice. You get a church with only men in charge then you have a church with another problem--only half of the image-bearers on earth are represented. And God said it best, "It is not good for man to be alone."


Nolan said...

Excellent perspective and great thoughts, Jonalyn. Hope you and Dale are enjoying life in Steamboat. Blessings, Nolan Bobbitt

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Thank you, Nolan. It's been good to run out into beautiful Fall after a day spent working out these ideas. Hope you and yours are well.

Anonymous said...

You go, girl! Great to hear your perspective, I totally agree. Your book is still on my "must read" list, but now even more so. Clay and I might move to Seattle next summer and have looked at Driscoll's church, but for this and other reasons, we'll probably steer clear. Beautiful perspective, great explanation. Thanks for having such a thoughtful contribution.
-Emily Jones

Paul said...

What's interesting is that Driscoll could be making a valid point in saying feminized men are a problem, but the way he uses feminine obscures it. I think you would agree that there are distinct differences between men and women (which is why we talk about being 'feminine' and 'masculine' at all), but Driscoll points to fallen aspects of femininity and then blames men for acting like that. If men assumed feminine traits (even redeemed ones), then there would be a problem. Unfortunately, that's not what Driscoll has in mind.

Do you think unredeemed femininity is still, properly speaking, feminine? Is there an essential property lost in the fall that makes it no longer feminine? So part of being redeemed would be regaining those essential properties. If that's right, then what Driscoll pegs as the problem isn't even femininity at all. (For some reason I can't recall your discussion of this in your book.)

Dale Fincher said...

I'll let Jonalyn give you her perspective, Paul. My own view is that Driscoll's point about 'feminized' men is, by it's very nature a contradiction. It's better to say 'fallen' men or 'barbarized' men or 'irresponsible' men.

The first and central property of being feminine is owning a female body. Even men with sex changes cannot have this... they still have a male body that's been manipulated.

So on my view Driscoll is not only using 'feminine' improperly but he is insulting woman in the process by using their the word that describes their essential quality as a negative.

Imagine how odd it would sound to say we have too many 'african american' white guys. Or too many 'white' african americans. That doesn't make sense. We might know what's being said with contexts, but the words are all wrong and it insults both ethnicities. And what exactly is the problem?

And, yes, there are essential differences between men and women, but the differences are not tenderness or poetry or guns or business or soft-spokenness... those are human qualities, depending on the person.

The gender differences are more nuanced. We will always find people left out of the definitions of 'masculine' and 'feminine' when we characterize it between strong and weak. There are women who like hunting. There are guys who like hand-lotion. And the women are still feminine and the men are still masculine.

Albeit, they are fallen forms, but they are there nonetheless. A shattered mirror is still a mirror... we reflect God's image with cracks and scars.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Glad this helped. Can't wait to hear how your move (wherever it may be) turns out. I think that it would be worth attending Mars Hill church just to see what it's like and find out if Driscoll regularly pushes these sorts of angles. If you go, let me know.

Beth said...

Well said, Jonalyn!

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

You are a faithful thinker. I like what you're saying (especially 2nd paragraph).
Let me speak to your 1st paragraph (risking sounding like a repeat of what Dale said) here.
You are correct that if a man is acting like a woman then he is truly feminine. Here's the rub, what is "acting like a woman"? Is it fallen woman or redeemed woman?
My view is that acting like a woman could mean both, but to call all negative things Driscoll sees in a church "feminine", he assaults all women be they redeemed, virtuous, fallen, sinful, etc. It uses a neutral, helpful word "feminine" and tags it with all the fallen feminine traits.
In Ruby Slippers, the main feminine trait that all women possess is not the capacity for emotions or sensitive awareness or nurturing, it is owning a female human body. That would be the ONLY trait a man would be wrong for adopting. Every other soul trait I list is shared by men in many places. Often men who are greater in one of the fruits of the Spirit (gentleness) are also more sensitive. Should we call this man feminine? Nope, we should call him a man who is gentle. To call a man "feminine" for adapting a trait many women have is to diss the man and the women who own it. It is the same as calling the man a "sissy" a "chickified man" or any word that takes a female word "sister" "chick" and makes it a man's disgrace.
Using "feminine" to get a man to act more masculine seems to indicate that we're in a "man's world," still. Where men are the norm and women are the aberration.
In Driscoll's words a feminine man shows more emotions, is sensitive (tender, nice, chickified) all of which, frankly, are human behaviors, not distinctly female ones.
The true sense of feminine isn't something even a man with a sex change can ape. Femininity, like masculinity is not something we can try harder at or work harder to act like... it is who we are when all the roles and fashion and worship styles are taken away.
In Ruby Slippers I never call women the "relational" ones or the "emotional ones" All humans are relational, emotional, the difference comes in the way women and men use their emotions and relational capacity.
I think Driscoll should be more fine-tuned in the words he uses. Perhaps I hold him to a higher standard because he's a leader/teacher. I also believe he's capable of smarter thinking.
Imagine if the accusation went the other way and I insulted all the military of this country for being masculine, power-mongering, torturing pigs. (Now, let me be clear I don't believe this) Regardless, though I would be associating masculinity with something men do. I would be dragging "masculine" through the mud, tagging it as the problem. What I wish Driscoll and others would do is not attempt to define masculinity in reaction or relief from women or as something me do.
Masculinity, like femininity is who we are at our core.
As to your second paragraph, I did not discuss this in my book. I do think that unredeemed femininity is still femininity because a woman's soul living in a woman's body (the essential feminine attribute) is enacting the behavior. I will keep thinking on this latter point.

faith said...


Thank you for continuing to speak the truth Christ and speaking out for unity in the body. The work of Christ is one of fulness and abundance and requires the complete nature of God (both male and female). I appreciate your bold and gracious answer to displaced honor and pride.

Paul said...

I wonder if this is what Driscoll has in mind...


Paula said...

I love the "Jesus was offensive and I am offensive, so I am like Jesus" logic. Our age hates false niceties, but must we hate all niceties?

I wish "feminine" could be used to only describe a female body. Would love to have more conversations about what it is to be human - much more useful.

Grace said...

It is killing me not getting in on this conversation, having read both your blog, Driscoll's, your book, and currently take three classes on gender roles and feminism... for the moment i do not have the time to refine the thoughts that have come to mind on the issue (i will pass the blame to homework for those mentioned classes) but one thing i did think about in class today, as we discussed the nature of masculinity and the define the world as a "man's world", is it possible for one to define a gender roles (albeit in church, in society, in general life) without negating the other gender? can an individual come up with a clear cut list of what it is to be masculine or feminine without saying it is not masculine/ feminine? i know it can be done, i tried it myself today. what i'm driving at is the fact that we associate ourselves with our gender role by NOT associating with the opposite gender role/identification. but is this correct? like jonalyn said, to be female does not mean i can't like hunting (or in my case for personal reference, wood working). why do we feel like we have to have a clear cut dicotomy between masculine and feminine (this taking into consideration that masculine and feminine relate to social, psychological realm, and female/male relate to the biologically predetermined sex of an individualy. to not confuse the idea that the biological determinism cannot be switched...)? why does a man have to be not sissy (rejection of all things "feminine"), a sturdy oak (strong support in all manners), the big wheel (driven by wealth), and macho (nothing can break you)? (the four dicates of David and Branndon no masculinity) where in scriptures is it recorded that a man must follow this example to be a leader or even a man? i would say more, but i must go study...

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Paula- Yes, a good point. Let feminine = a woman's body as it is not with fashion's "feminine" touches. Help me out, what do you mean by false niceties in our culture?
Savannah (Grace)- yes we need to build up a definition of masculinity and femininity that refuses to drag the other gender in as a foil

Di said...

Joined the fray over at the original blog - I think Jonalyn that you overreached in trying there to nudge people towards egalitarianism. You suddenly got personal reactions and inaccurately labelled instead of a response. A sad mis-reading of your intent. I was telling Dom last night that it was a joy to watch you and Dale engage and interact in that forum so charitably and winsomely. So sad that your interlocutor didn't feel the same. Ah the internet - so often a vehicle for miscommunication amongst brethren. A pity.

On another note, one helpful point in the discussion of our "separated brethren" on related matters is that men and women discover their masculinity and femininity in relationship to each other. What is fallen is perhaps not so much our different "-inities" but the way in which we use them against each other when they were made to be both a delight and a route to knowledge.

This is seen for example in marriage, where I discover masculinity by loving and seeing Dom for who he is and thus I delight in him. At the same time I learn more about myself as a woman and learn to delight more in God's gift of femininity to me. In giving our whole selves to each other (and not mere projections of our selves), we delight in each other and we discover ourselves...in the giving, the receiving, and in being given back again through each other's delight.

Fascinating stuff, theology of the body. Need to think on it more...

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

One more note. I don't think feminine can mean JUST body differences, unless we take into account how our soul (beliefs, will, emotions, desires, etc) are also affected by having a female body.

Paula said...

Yeah, I'm currently open to the idea of examining common female characteristics which are borne out of her body's influence on her. I am wary of this for potential abuses: hyper-freudian or highly metaphorical stuff (ex. She has soft skin, so is naturally soft-spoken)

Re: niceties: People who pride themselves on being offensive don't impress me; that's what I mean. We don't like people who are falsely polite, but
sometimes no distinction is made between "politeness" and "false politeness" - this makes the impolite person seem more noble for behaving like a jack---.

Anonymous said...

What a great discussion! I know several people that go to Mars Hill here in Seattle, and it was a big deal when Driscoll said those things. I think some people picketed (respectfully) from my school, SPU.
The school newspaper was full of comment for and against. I loved what Faith said about this debate being about unity in the body, and it requiring the complete nature of God, both male and female. And I loved what Jonalynn said (quoting God)about it not being good for man to be alone in this thing called life that we have been given to do.
Like others here, I'm so thankful for a husband who "gets it" and shows me the love of Christ, and isn't diminished by sharing the work with his wife.
Thanks everyone! - Robin

Anonymous said...

I get dizzy trying to figure out how the "church" has become "feminized" under the umbrella of church leaders who, in most cases, are MEN.

Love the discussion.


Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Robin and Faith,
Thank you for the reminders that this is an intramural debate, one that Christians are free to disagree on and not be kicked out of the fold.
Glad to have more clarification. Good point. There are certain body characteristics that are not essential to femininity (soft skin, long hair, long fingernails). Perhaps this are in a list of flexible characteristics that are indications of how we wear our femininity. When I think of body differences I was primarily focusing on the biological difference (sexual organs, brain size, etc those things that we cannot manipulate except by invasive surgery.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

I think women use their femininity in fallen ways even when they are just among women. That's actually the subject of next book idea. It comes out in secular culture in movies like Mean Girls and books Tripping The Prom Queen. Though yes, it also comes out in the way women and men relate. One of the challenges in Ruby Slippers was trying to list characteristics of women without constantly referring to me (e.g. Captivating). Thank you for sharing how you learn more about fem and masc in your marriage. What a good reminder!
I think Paula and my replying comments begin to touch more about this theology of body. That would be worth another post, if not a lifetime of study. :)

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

An Apology:
Mr. Driscoll has already apologized for some of his earlier statements from last December. http://theresurgence.com/mark_driscoll_2006-12-01_count_it_all_joy I think it only fair to note that he is open to rethinking both his rhetoric and his responsibility!

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Though I don't believe Mr. Driscoll hates women,I found this quote provacative:
" Even in sensitive churches, prejudice against women-and indeed hatred for women-still exists."
Dr. Margaret Rinck, Christian Men Who Hate Women

Anonymous said...

I have no idea who this guy is, but knowing you, he's wrong.

~Mstr Lm

S. Strang said...

More here:


Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Please accept this slightly revised version:

Hi Jonalyn!
I just came across this article...

Are you sure you're not being kind or charitable enough? I mean seriously... You REALLY do sound pretty angry and mocking at times through out the course of this article!

Double Standard? Who would suggest such a thing?!!

Quite honestly... I would never wish to seriously critique you in a negative way for how you wrote this article.
After all you have a right to express how you feel about this and I would never wish to suggest that I or anybody else should call your spiritual character or conviction into question because of it!

Have a blessed day!

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Bhikkhu Aggacitto,

I would be grateful if you could point out where I have been either unkind or mocking.

I do not want my anger with Driscoll's influence and damage to women to cloud my desire to love him and be fair in my judgment of his ideas.

It might help you to keep in mind that the path of following Jesus requires that we criticize false views, but never abandoning charity, kindness or love. The Bible actually teaches us to despise vileness and false ideas. I'm attempting to do this here. However, I'm open to seeing how I may have failed.

I'm curious how you would define charity?

I'm defining it as "willing the good of another" or "extending oneself for the spiritual growth of another."

Would you mind showing me specifically where I have erred in not being loving/charitable toward Driscoll?

Thank you,

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Jonalyn!

“Are you sure you're not being kind or charitable enough?”
This was NOT being said seriously. I thought you would catch that.

“Mr. Driscoll is going to believe the Holy Spirit gives out pink and blue spiritual gifts.”
Not mocking?

“Mr. Driscoll will not be a believer in women who can expound, preach, lead or innovate in church.”
Speaking in context to the Christian religion, just how do you know what your Christian God has in store for Mr. Driscoll? Do you mean to tell me that you don't know the difference between
has been and will not be? You certainly seem more intelligent than that!

“The worst part is that I don't think Mr. Driscoll has any idea of what he's doing.”
Not mocking or unkind?

“I shouldn't be surprised that I'm offended.” Neither am I for that matter.
You have acknowledged that you have anger for this man and that you are offended by him.
The point here is this:
I have been accused by your husband Dale of my tone sounding “mocking” and of being
“uncharitable” regarding a post of mine when all I was doing was honestly speaking my mind as you were in this article.
I was further accused by him of being "unkind" and of "twisting" scripture and has implied that I don't show "humility". I'm discussing this with you because this happened at your blogsite. As well he accused me of “self aggrandizement”!(at dhammaprotector.blogspot.com/).
Perhaps there are times when a softer touch would be more advisable it is true, but we get to decide when that is and let someone else say as they wish. They have their right to their opinion just as we all do.
I will say AGAIN:
Quite honestly... I would never wish to seriously critique you in a negative way for how you wrote this article.
I am not offended by you or him and I am not angry at either of you. The article Jesus Out Shines Buddha? was written because I honestly felt that there were issues that would best be addressed by doing so.
Furthermore, believe it or not, I'm not complaining but just trying to show you what would certainly seem like a double standard. After all, you of course never objected to any of this, am I surprised?
and I will say once more.......
Quite honestly... I would never wish to seriously critique you in a negative way for how you wrote this article.
Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...


Do you mean to tell me that you don't know the difference between
has been and will not be? You certainly seem more intelligent than that!

should be...

Do you mean to tell me that you don't know the difference between
has not been or has been unwilling to be and will not be? You certainly seem more intelligent than that!

yes its something small, but why not dot the i or cross the t if we can...

Bhikkhu aggacitto