Driscoll and The Bogeyman Narrative

In the end,  I’ll take a good old paleo-Calvinist any day over a neo one. An old Reformed dinosaur who read Graeme Goldsworthy before he was famous in the USA, who loves Spurgeon, but baulks at cigars; who has quietly led his family well for decades; who has convictions about complementarianism, but doesn’t feel the need to shove it in people’s face; who understands that the biblical idea of manhood doesn’t require a foot long beard and a smokin’ hot wife.


After reading The Gospel Coalition article – Seattle Reboot: Life After Mars Hill about the Driscoll/Mars Hill fall-out  I was struck by two things.  First the total absence of the Bogeyman, Driscoll himself.  He looms over the article by his vast absence not his vast presence. The general tenor is “We’ve moved on so let’s not even talk about it.”

Secondly I was struck by a narrative that tends to paint others in the Mars Hill leadership as either unwitting or unwilling accomplices, fellow victims even, of Driscoll’s failures; a projection of the faults of other leaders onto the man himself. Hence the narrative is that they discover only later how much a part of the problem they were, hence they end up working hard to rectify it, or at least explaining how they do.

The narrative goes like this:

The Bogeyman no longer holds sway over us. We too were swept along with his charms and his gifts, and we in turned burned others before we were in turn burned by him. We then took charge, got rid of him and now our role is now to help the hurting recover.

This narrative is an increasingly familiar one in Australia in recent years,  where we have had a succession of toppled Bogeymanesque Prime Ministers who have outstayed their welcome and gone sour.

After weeks and months of affirmations of support, one day the senior government members suddenly land in the Prime Minister’s office en masse and announces it’s all over.

“Look,” they say, “We no longer support you.  The polls have slumped.  You’re toxic. You’re trashing the brand -our brand –  you have to go.”

And that’s that.  The coup, plotted over weeks and months as number crunchers sniff the polls, suddenly comes to a head and it’s all over in a single day. Just yesterday they were singing the PM’s praises on national television.  Tomorrow he’ll be fish and chip wrapping.

The former Prime Minister then sits on the back bench, a forlorn Bogeyman, alone and just a little bit bitter.  Okay, a lot bitter.

Sarah Zylstra’s article paints a similarly swift demise for Driscoll and Mars Hill: “Then, in a few breathtaking months, the whole thing collapsed.”

Interestingly the next stage of the narrative in both the political story and the Mars Hill story are also similar. In both cases the old guard who were part of the problem pitch themselves as the solution. Having named the problem, they announce that, at great cost to themselves, they are now willing and able to lead the way forward.

Hence Zylstra quotes several leaders, who after a period of reflection and repentance, establish ReBoot Camp, so to speak, helping clear the rubble and binding up the wounded.

Now I am more than sure those leaders are sorry for the hurt that was caused and they want to lead people out of it.  They say as much.  There is certainly a repentant tone to, and some admirable attempts to reconcile.

But Zylstra’s article would have been a little more pointed – and a little more helpful – if she had acknowledged that the collapse was not as breathtaking as she posits.

Many blog articles, several recovery FB pages and other social media sites by bruised and broken sheep had been signalling this in the years (yes years) leading up to those fateful months. This thing was not done in the dark, let alone swiftly. The sheep had been bleating – and loudly for some time.

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