Episode 5 of the Mars Hill Podcast is delving into how Mark Driscoll taught about sex. Wow.
For those of you who don’t know, Mars Hill was a megachurch and a network of satellite churches in the early 2000s in the Pacific Northwest, centered in Seattle, founded by pastor Mark Driscoll. He was famous for his hyper masculine style, and known as the cussing preacher.
He also was a bully, and the church fell apart when elders tried to reign him in and hold him accountable for unchristlike behavior. He quit, and his family moved down to Arizona where he has started a new church (and where there are even more horrifying allegations).
When he left, some of the satellite churches went independent, but many just dissolved. And thousands left the church entirely. It was a mess.
But that Mars Hill mess was avoidable, and that’s what Christianity Today has been exploring in a series of podcasts.
Called “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill”, they’ve been interviewing insiders and trying to paint the picture of how things went so bad.
Okay, that’s the background.
Now, let’s talk about what makes this pressing today.
Yesterday an episode dropped about sex.
We actually included some quotes from Mark Driscoll in The Great Sex Rescue as evidence of how common the harmful teachings we deconstructed were. It was Mark Driscoll who called women “penis homes” and told women they should gratefully drop on their knees to “service” their husbands or repent. That’s all in our book.
Episode 5 talks about all of this, and so, so many people are tagging me on social media telling me about it. I’m very grateful when people send me things that may be interesting to me, because it’s often the only way I hear about it. I don’t spend a lot of time on news sites or perusing social media feeds because I’m so busy, so I tend to only see things if people send me links (and thankfully lots do).
And this one is blowing up all my inboxes right now, because everyone is saying it’s right up my alley–and it sounds like it is.
Only thing is I haven’t listened to it yet.
I know I will, but it’s a really busy month with a writing deadline, and I know I’m going to find the episode triggering.
Just likely not why everyone thinks.
Hearing what Mark said won’t be triggering; I know it all, and I’m kind of immune to that right now. Seriously, most of what I do is look at horrible quotes in books (we’re now at a whole new level of horrible as we look at quotes in books aimed at teenage girls for our new book), and very, very little can surprise me or shock me. And I’ve already heard what Mark said anyway.
What I’m scared of is that the conversation seems to be revolving around how bad Mark is, and I’m afraid people won’t make the connection that none of what he says was in isolation or was different from what is in our evangelical bestsellers.
Here’s part of what we said about Mark Driscoll in the book:
Now-disgraced former megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll said this in a 2007 sermon in Edinburgh about how a wife should “repent” of the “terrible sin” of not giving oral sex:
She [the wife] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.’” She says, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. First Peter three says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness.”
We believe oral sex can be a healthy part of couples’ sex lives, provided both of you are comfortable with it. But cross-centered sex means that making love needs to be about serving and loving. To frame it as Driscoll does here, and to use Bible verses to manipulate her into giving him oral sex, strips the wife of her dignity. Driscoll has lost much of his credibility in the church, partly because of statements like this. We wonder, though, why so many authors of books can say similar things without being similarly discredited. Is it only that we do not like hearing it out loud?
It’s that highlighted part that’s so important to me: what he said is not different from what is in our bestsellers. Why is it that we allow it in books, but notice it when it’s said aloud?
One of my theories is that it’s mostly women reading the books, and women don’t have a way to speak up and be heard. When it’s said out loud in mixed company, it can become more obvious that it’s a problem.
One Twitter thread on Mars Hill put it this way:
One example: the Driscoll quote - “If you reach men, you reach everyone else.”— Eliza B (@morebyreaping) July 28, 2021
It would seem that Driscoll loved teaching on gender and sexuality, and this line leaves us in no doubt as to whose experience will be foregrounded, favoured and prioritised in his church.
Had Driscoll involved women in these discussions appropriately, I can promise you that he would have come to vastly different (and vastly more accurate, and vastly less abusive) conclusions about how the sexes should relate to one another effectively.— Eliza B (@morebyreaping) July 28, 2021
These limitations combined with the staunchly male hierarchy made women uniquely vulnerable within that church community. How could a woman, then, stand up to Driscoll (or any male authority) or give an opposing viewpoint? She'd lose everything - her whole community, her life.— Eliza B (@morebyreaping) July 28, 2021
Later on, she ends her thread with a recommendation for our book:
What we learn from Mars Hill is that when women are excluded, Christianity can develop a sex fetish.
Imagine being a young man growing up in Mars Hill, hearing that once you’re married, your wife owes you sex–and not just any sex. She needs to “service” you or she’s in sin.
How many young men flocked to that church because they could almost glory in their sexual desires and lusts because they were manly, and they knew that if they picked a Mars Hill woman, she’d be constantly taught that her main duty as a Christian wife was to put out as often as possible?
This happened at Mars Hill. But it also happened in the wider evangelical community. It’s still happening right now, which is why we had to write The Great Sex Rescue.
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?
It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.
As I said, I will likely listen to episode 5 soon.
I know it features great people, like Rachael Denhollander and Sarah Bessey. I wish they had asked to interview us, frankly, because we could have given them numbers to go along with the discussion–like how many women actually believe these harmful messages; what happens to orgasm rates when certain of these messages are believed; what’s the real cause of sexless marriages.
I hope that one day Christian media as a whole recognizes what a treasure trove of data we’re sitting on, and how much data is in The Great Sex Rescue. We truly did something new, and it does make me sad when people miss the opportunity to mention it.
In the academic world we’re getting some buzz, and I’ll tell you more about that soon. Joanna and I have been handpicked, along with a pelvic floor physiotherapy prof, to deliver a big address to the huge Physiotherapy conference in San Antonio, Texas next February on religious women and vaginismus, and what we found were the big contributing factors. And our data set will be available for all academics to use soon. But somehow the Christian world isn’t catching on.
If anyone has any ideas, let me know.
But here’s something you can do to help me:
Whenever you see a reporter or influencer or big podcaster posting about something like this, tag me in it! Let them know about our research and that I’d make a great guest/great someone to interview. I do get a lot of interviews that way.
So tag me! Keep sending me this stuff.
And give episode 5 a listen and let me know in the comments here what you thought. Did they loop it into the wider evangelical culture? Did they criticize the people who endorsed his marriage book and hold them to account? I’d love to know!
UPDATE: I’ve now written my own Twitter thread about this.
If you’re on Twitter, like and retweet to help it get seen! I’d love to get some more podcast interviews on this, or be covered more in the Christian press. And click through to read the thread!
Let me add some numbers to the most recent @CTmagazine Mars Hill podcast, "The Things We Do to Women"?— Sheila Gregoire--The Great Sex Rescue is here! (@sheilagregoire) July 28, 2021
That podcast was devastating, and delved into the horrible way Mark Driscoll talked about sex and women at Mars Hill.
Here's what our study found:
Have you listened to episode 5 yet? What were your thoughts? Do you think the evangelical world is waking up to this stuff? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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