Last year, a 25-year-old Seattleite named Andrew got a taste of Mark Driscoll’s almost cult-like style of church discipline. Andrew’s story has made the rounds many times since blogger Matthew Paul Turner first shared it. I won’t rehash the details here.
Yesterday, Slate picked up the story, which prompted some to accuse Turner of tarnishing Christianity’s reputation by criticizing Driscoll. The following comment, posted to Turner’s Facebook page, captures the feelings of those who believe it’s wrong for Christians to publicly criticize other Christians:
Way to go Matt. You’ve given those far from God fodder for scoffing at Christ and his bride… hope you are proud.
Matthew Paul Turner loves to poke a stick at the more ridiculous elements of the Christian subculture. From really bad church signs to abstinence bears, he invites us to share an ironic laugh at the expense of the absurd.
But there’s nothing funny about spiritual abuse. So instead of his usual satire, Turner’s criticism of Driscoll is intense, earnest, and, at times, angry.
Which bothers those who think it’s more important to protect Christianity’s reputation among nonbelievers than to call out abuse and injustice in our midst.
But such preservationist instincts never stopped writers of the Bible from criticizing corruption in the early church — loudly, at times. If it’s wrong to engage in public criticism of those who are abusing others in the name of Christ, then we may want to consider making some drastic changes to our Bible. We could start by cutting 1 Corinthians.
Paul lashes out at the church in Corinth for everything from separating into factions to neglecting the poor. His letter is now canonized in sacred scripture, where anyone, Christian or otherwise, can read it. Whether he knew it or not, Paul was airing the Corinthians’ dirty laundry for all to see.
“But they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” some argue. And they’re right. Jesus himself said as much. But if it’s Jesus’ reputation we’re concerned about, then it’s incumbent upon us to speak up when someone abuses people in his name.
Love means standing up for the abused and marginalized, even — and especially — when their abusers profess to follow Christ. Yes, even if that means being labeled a troublemaker.
The world could use more troublemakers like Matthew Paul Turner.