Dear Pastor Mark Driscoll,
Dude, I’ve been mad at you since…October. Mostly, I guess I’m not mad at you, I just feel really sorry for you. I get that you think you’re saying important and “right” things, but I really have a problem with a) the way you say things, and b) some of the things you say. But honestly, I have to thank you for saying them, because what you’ve said has stirred me up, made me think, made me pray, and made me wrestle more than they have made me angry.
I commented the other day on someone’s Facebook post about your latest controversial tweet–you know…the one you posted last Friday. I said that I wished I could introduce you to the Jesus I know. And I do wish I could sit down with you and talk, but I doubt that meeting could happen for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m not all that important and probably wouldn’t be the kind of heathen you’d have coffee or a meeting with. But here’s the deal…
I realize our theologies are quite different. I understand that you believe some very different things about being a Christian than I do, and express yourself and your beliefs in a very different way. However, we do both believe in Jesus. And the Jesus I know, the Jesus I love, the Jesus I endeavor to follow and humble myself before seems to do things very differently than the Jesus you seem to know and proclaim. My understanding of Jesus as the Incarnation has nothing at all to do with coming to tell us how awful and depraved we are. Rather, I believe Jesus came to help us understand our humanity and how to engage the Divine in a personal and transcendent way. The way I understand the Jesus stories isn’t about heaven and hell as places we are sent to be rewarded or punished, but rather as explorations of the grace and mercy we extend to each other in this life. Maybe that sounds too karmic for your taste, or wishy washy. But I don’t think the Jesus I know was terribly interested in what happens when we die nearly as much as Jesus was and is deeply interested in the way we live. Jesus’ death and resurrection remain a deep mystery to me, and I think, probably to most people who’ve met him and heard his story. Jesus’ life and ministry, however…not nearly as mysterious, but more meaty and visceral and dedicated to elevating those around him to do better through his example. Jesus comes to us, to the world, and turns everything we think we know about relationship and order on it’s head–this Jesus dares to tell us that if we are willing to see and hear that we will find the Kingdom of God in plain sight, and not at the end of some bright tunnel when we die. And that seriously makes me take a breath and look around harder, listen more deeply, and act with more love and compassion than I thought I had in me to do.
I’ve heard you speak. I’ve read some of what you’ve written. And I feel like the Jesus you know is kind of petty and small. I feel like for you, it’s about a scorecard, about strictness, about denial of experience and experiment. And that makes me sad for you. The Jesus I know is huge, and full of love…but not the kind of hugeness that makes you feel scared and small and worried you might pee in your pants, and not the kind of love that makes you feel guilty or squirmy or pitiful. The hugeness of Jesus, the way Jesus stretches out his arms to embrace the hurts we do to ourselves and others by showing us how to love and live in right relationship–and by that I mean loving God and our neighbor to the best of our ability and understanding, however partial and simple and limited that might be–frees us to see God in our midst, to find God in our hearts, not to bow and scrape to some unknowable and ineffable Sky-God who may or may not accept our feeble selves. It frees us to love more fully, to accept that, as CS Lewis so rightly says that “nothing is yet in it’s true form”, and to believe that our brokeness is made whole by his love. As the Incarnation, Jesus fully lived into the human condition and sanctified it, making us in a very real and tangible way part of the Trinity. And that is no small thing, that is not something to be minimized or made fun of or call weak. That’s the Jesus who meets each of us at the Table, and asks us to sit down as honored guests, as his Beloved, regardless of how sad or mean or angry or sinful we are. The Jesus who meets us at the Table isn’t concerned with what we’ve brought to the party nearly as much as he’s concerned that we know we are his favorite guest, the person he most wanted to show up, the person he’d drive across town to pick up. That’s the hugeness and the love I’m talking about. And just for a minute, I wish you’d feel invited into that, swaddled in it, and comforted by.
I’m sorry that you think people who aren’t Christians are going to hell, and that you feel like it’s important to say that. Saying things like that, no matter how truthful and loving you believe it to be, is really mean. Jesus was not mean. Or cruel. Or dismissive. Jesus radically included people that the world considered garbage–even the guys crucified next to him, even the whores and the tax collectors and Samaritans and little children. The Jesus I know was deeply interested in those people, in their stories, in their happiness and wholeness, and he got down in the dirt with them, saved them from stones, gave them fish and bread, and blessed their little hearts. My hope is that your heart will be softened to know that Jesus, that Jesus who is interested in healing our hurts more than he’s interested in hearing our creeds or our screeds. Jesus comes from a long line of prophets–people who remind us over and over that what God desires from us is mercy, justice, humility, and hearts that are broken wide open so that they can love more, love deeper, love like Jesus loved. Jesus doesn’t ask us to judge or make statements on his behalf about who is going to Heaven or when the end of the world is coming. Jesus asks us to make peace, to offer comfort, to embrace meekness, and to be merciful. I think that’s the way we bear the light of Jesus into the world, the way we can be like Jesus, the way we bring his light and love into the world, so that we can rightly call ourselves Christians.
The harder we push the line of who’s in and who’s out, of who’s holy and who’s hell bound, the less we sound like Jesus, and the less people who don’t know Jesus feel drawn to know him. When we do that, we are stumbling blocks, not only to the mission of the Church–to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, but to people who are seeking and searching for Jesus’ love in the world. And that’s what we should be about–welcoming people, not damning them. If damnation is a real thing, I don’t trust a single person, living or dead to be smart enough or big enough to make that decision. That’s a decision that can only rightly be made by an all-knowing, all-seeing God. And my suspicion and great hope–nay, my deep and profound belief– is that God loves us so much, that no matter how far we run, or where we run, or if we never knew there was something to run from or toward in the first place, that God seeks us out and loves us, anyway. That’s what I think.
So, even though I’m still kind of mad at you, and still feel sorrier for you than I probably have a right to, I want to say thank you for making me think, for making me engage my personal theology in a different way, and for praying for you. I hope that one day, you are knocked out by grace and mercy, in the best possible way.