This weekend the Seattle Times—after spending a decade and a half sliding its tongue in and out of Mark Driscoll's ass—ran a big cover story on the rise and fall of Mars Hill. (Back when the Seattle Times was writing glowing profiles of Driscoll, the Stranger was suggesting picket lines outside his church.)
Two quick thoughts: It's hard to feel much sympathy for all the Mars Hill pastors, elders, leaders, and members who have been pushed out, fired, shunned, etc., by Mark Driscoll and the rest of the neo-Calvinists at Mars Hill. Driscoll is an abusive shit stain? Really? You don't say. Funny that you're just coming to that realization. Because people who never set foot inside a Mars Hill deep-fried Jesus franchise could clearly see Driscoll for what he was years ago. But you guys—leaders and "elders" in Driscoll's church—you couldn't see it.
Or maybe I'm being too kind. You probably could see it and you were fine with it. You were fine with Driscoll's bullying and his megalomania. You were fine with helping Driscoll promote his retrograde sexism. You were fine with Driscoll's bigoted attacks on gay people. (Homosexuality, Driscoll preached, is a cancer, and Mars Hill wants to "kill the cancer.") All of that was fine with you. But when it was your turn to be bullied and shamed and attacked... that wasn't fine with you. So now you've got the big sadz and you're leaving Mars Hill. And everyone who could see Driscoll for what he was is supposed to feel sorry for you because... why exactly? Because Driscoll and the people still picking corn out of his shit finally got around to being awful to you? And we're supposed to feel like you're being brave when you walk away from the monster—Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll—that you helped to create?
All you people leaving Mars Hill now—after ten or fifteen years in the pews, after ten or fifteen years of tithing, after ten or fifteen years of shunning the people Driscoll told you to shun, after ten or fifteen years of inviting credulous suckers to visit join your pseudo-hipster church (hey, the music is awesome!)—you aren't heroes. You aren't brave. You were part of the problem at Mars Hill. And if you leave Mars Hill only to go find some other charismatic "faith leader" to line up behind and throw your money at, then you've learned nothing from your experience at Mars Hill. And you can go fuck yourselves either way.
Okay! That was thought #1. Here's thought number #2. What happens after the fall of Mars Hill? Another Mars Hill will rise up to take its place:
A toned and sunburned 32-year-old Australian with the letters F-A-I-T-H tattooed onto his biceps strode onto the stage of a former burlesque theater here and shouted across a sea of upstretched hands and uplifted smartphones: “Let’s win this city together!” The crowd did not need much urging. Young, diverse and devoted to Jesus, the listeners had come to the Belasco Theater from around the city, and from across the country, eager to help an Australian Pentecostal megachurch that is spreading worldwide establish its first outpost on America’s West Coast. The church, Hillsong, has become a phenomenon, capitalizing on, and in some cases shaping, trends not only in evangelicalism but also in Christian youth culture. Its success would be rare enough at a time when religion is struggling in a secularizing Europe and North America. But Hillsong is even more remarkable because its target is young Christians in big cities, where faith seems out of fashion but where its services are packing them in.
The preacher wears jeans and gels his hair. There's a rock band. And Hillsong is pulling in scores of credulous young people!
Replace "Hillsong" with "Mars Hill" and this story—which ran last week in the New York Times—could've been written about ten or fifteen years ago about Mars Hill. And the stories being written today about Mars Hill will one day be written about Hillsong.