I love sarcasm. Those who’ve read any posts on this blog probably know that. My students—or, at least, those who listen when I talk in class—also know that. I’ve been fostering a fine sense of sarcasm in my kids since the moment they could talk; this has meant letting them watch ample episodes of “The Simpsons,” thanks to a friend whose parenting I admire, and who said Homer and Bart had helped her own children have a great appreciation for the sarcastic.
I don’t like Mark Driscoll, at least not the public persona he’s created through his Mars Hills ministry and his many books, blogs, and sermons. Those who’ve read many posts on this blog probably know that we dislike Mark Driscoll, and find his messages about gender destructive to both men and women. The claims he’s made are doozies, and often challenge my peacemaking self—including the argument Driscoll made recently, that pacifists are pansies, and that Jesus was no pansy and thus no pacifist, and that some day soon, Jesus would come and kick the crap out of those who disagree.
So when I read recently that Shane Claiborne had friends who were proposing raising funds for a Mark Driscoll Scholarship Fund for Women in Ministry, my initial response was to think “Ha! That’s funny” and “I like it!” And I did like it, when several of my Facebook friends reposted the link, describing the potential of such a scholarship. The sweet, sweet irony: helping women pursue their calling as ministers in the name of someone who preached against this for apparently biblical reasons. How rich! What a great way to stand up against all the garbage Driscoll teaches.
Or not . . .
Because as I thought about the idea of a Mark Driscoll Scholarship, I began to feel a little unsettled. It could be that I’ve become satiated by Christian sarcasm, or haven’t watched “The Simpsons” enough lately, or haven’t exercised those sarcastic muscles enough. Perhaps having two middle schoolers telling me fart jokes all day has blunted the edges of my humor.
But I also wonder, is this what folks who want to support women in ministry should really be about? Creating a scholarship fund in part to jab at the man whose ministry is, to a great degree, about taking a jab at others (literally and figuratively)? Will this really change Driscoll’s mind, or make his followers think again about whether women should be in leadership, or empower women to pursue gifts that are holy?
Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of creating scholarships for women who want to pursue ministry, and I’m on the board of one organization, Christian Feminism Today, who endeavors to empower women to serve God in many ways. Still, why not establish a scholarship that is wholly—and solely—about empowering women, rather than having a secondary motive of disempowering Driscoll and his ilk?
Reading the comments beneath the Patheos blog post that announced plans for a scholarship, I feel even more conflicted. Yes, Driscoll has done some shitty things. Yes, it’s good for Christians to have a sense of humor about all things. And no, I don’t care to get into arguments about whether the scholarship is “the Christian thing to do.” Guilting people into doing “the Christian thing” has been the modus operandi for many evangelicals, even when “the Christian thing” can rarely be clearly defined.
And still, after sitting with the idea of such a scholarship for a few days, I have to wonder about the motives of the scholarship progenitors, which is troubling to me. Why create a scholarship that’s going to make people wonder: Do they really want to support women in ministry, or do they want to engage in evangelical one-upmanship, a kind of game at which Mark Driscoll excels?
Instead, I’d suggest funding a scholarship for women in ministry and name it after someone who has indeed supported women who minister: someone like Letha Dawson Scanzoni, a foremother of Christian feminism; or Rachel Held Evans, who has done so much for Christian feminists of this era; or even Claiborne himself. By doing this, the scholarship organizers remove all doubt about the true intent of their efforts, which seems to me the best outcome possible.