For 5 years I produced and hosted a daily Christian radio talk show in Seattle, Washington. During my 1,200 plus shows, I tried hard to treat people the way I would want to be treated or at least to speak about them as if they were real people, not just conversation fodder. To ensure that I maintained this objective, I often asked myself “in the room” questions. The “in the room” questions went something like this: “If the person I’m talking about was in the room with me, at this very moment, would I be talking about them in the same manner? Would I be using the same words and the same attitude? Or would I be kinder and more respectful? If they were in the room, would I be treating them differently or the same?” I’d like to say that I always spoke about people as if they were in the room with me, but that was not always the case. Even so, I do think there were many times I treated people in the news with great respect, even when I strongly disagreed with their behaviors, beliefs and positions. All this brings me to Donald Trump, Kanye West and Mark Driscoll.
It has been a little over a year since I quit my show and to be honest, I am rather thankful I haven’t had to daily engage some of the madness that has engulfed the American populace. Even so, there are certain figures that keep popping up on the cultural, political and religious landscape. I am not suggesting that social media is a giant game of whack-a-mole, but I will suggest that if you look at the landscape long enough, you’re going to see the same heads resurfacing, whether or not you wield your mallet. Three figures that keep popping up in my arcade are Donald Trump, Kanye West and Mark Driscoll.
I understand that by lumping these three names together it appears I am attempting to create some sort of cultural collage of derision. I assume none of these three men would necessarily prefer to be lumped in with the others. Regardless, they have become intertwined in my thought process. With this said, I would like to make comment about their current courses of action and what their behavior says about the current state of all of us. I’ll try my best to say these things as if these three men are sitting in the room with me. You know, just Doug Bursch, hanging out in a room with Donald Trump, Kanye West and Mark Driscoll.
Mark Driscoll was once the very influential lead pastor of Seattle’s now defunct mega congregation, Mars Hill Church. Along with pastoring Mars Hill, Driscoll had tremendous influence in national discussions concerning the state and condition of Christianity in America. Pastor Mark Driscoll also had a character problem that he was unwilling to address.
Whether or not the majority of Mark Driscoll’s ministry was spot on appropriate or God-centered, he had a percentage of his ministry that was ruled by behavior that was not Christ-like. For the sake of argument, let’s just say that 90 percent of his ministry was perfect and 10 percent of his ministry was wrong, broken or even sinful. Unfortunately, Pastor Mark was extremely successful as a young minister. Sadly, when people experience success, they are often reluctant to look at the areas of brokenness or sin in their lives. It becomes difficult for them to reconcile all their success with what is broken or wrong. In other words, if the 90 percent of their life is going really well, they have a tendency to minimize or justify the 10 percent that is broken. This can become even worse when people have a theological conviction that a sovereign God would not truly bless them if they were behaving inappropriately. The logic goes that the 10 percent can’t really be that bad, otherwise, God wouldn’t be doing all this great stuff. This twisted, errant logic has destroyed many wonderful ministers and ministries.
Instead of talking in percentages, let’s look at that 10 percent of broken or sinful behavior as a satanic foothold. Let’s just say hypothetically that pastor Mark started in ministry with 90 percent of his life yielded to God, but 10 percent of his life was still controlled by a satanic foothold, a way of being and doing that was contrary to God’s will for his life. Let’s just say that because the 90 percent was going so well, Mark refused to deal with that satanic foothold until it began to destroy his ability to do almost anything at all. Eventually, he was unable to compartmentalize or control the consequences of ignoring his brokenness.
When I look at what happened at Mars Hill Church, I see this to be the real issue of what transpired. Although there were lots of tangental issues facing Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, the ultimate issue that destroyed his ministry effectiveness was the way he loved people. More specifically, Mark entered into ministry with profound relational brokenness. This expressed itself in how he dealt with conflict, women, leaders and ministry disagreements. As a result, many elders, pastors and workers at Mars Hill were profoundly hurt by the 10 percent of Mark that never conformed to the image of Christ.
Eventually, there came a day when Mark was asked to fully confront and deal with the part of his leadership that was fundamentally broken. Although not all the details have been made known, it seems there was a genuine desire within the leadership of Mars Hill to pursue a path of reconciliation among fellow leaders and workers that would have built trust both inside and outside the walls of Mars Hill church. Sadly, Mark resigned from Mars Hill and left the situation unresolved. Regardless of his public proclamations, he refused to do the difficult work of confronting the 10 percent within him that was profoundly broken. Instead, he took his 90 percent good work life to pursue another opportunity to do things better. Recently, he has announced that he is starting a new church in Arizona. He will most likely give 100 percent of his spiritual fervor to this new endeavor.
I don’t have ill will towards Mark Driscoll. I don’t wish him failure and I don’t delight in any hardship or hurt coming to his life. I do, however, mourn his unwillingness to do the painful work of reconciliation. I believe that his unwillingness to deal with the relational hurt he caused will forever limit his effectiveness in ministry. This to me is a terrible tragedy. Sadly, it seems his view of self and God did not have enough room to truly admit to his own brokenness. He simply was unwilling to do the painful, difficult, time-consuming work of relational reconciliation. To make matters worse, his early success in life and the poor counsel of other “successful” men has kept him from finding true freedom in that 10 percent of his life that is profoundly broken. We all have our 10 percent…no one is immune to their 10 percent…but not everyone will seek and find healing.
There is no simple way to describe the work of Kanye West. Kanye has had a profound impact on the music industry. Throughout his career he has repeatedly pushed, blurred, reimagined and revolutionized the boundaries of rap, hip hop, art and fashion. He has allowed various divergent aspects of the artistic spectrum to inform the production of his music. The results of his efforts have frequently been controversial, but have also greatly influenced many within the music and entertainment industry. There is no simple way to explain what Kanye has done. In my personal opinion, much of his work is misogynistic and repulsive. On the other hand, some of his musical choices are masterful, beautiful and engaging. This dichotomy exists within his career, within his albums and even within individual songs. There are some who praise him and others who ridicule him. For me, he is someone who has both tremendous beauty and tremendous darkness in his life. There are moments of life and light in his witness as well as moments of extreme depravity.
Along with being a musician, Kanye West appears to have sin problems and mental health issues he desperately needs to address. Sadly, he does not seem to have anyone who can convince him to get the help he needs. Recently, Kanye has been in the news for the increasingly erratic, irrational and arrogant things he says. For those who hate him, these comments are proof of his villainous nature. For those who love him, these comments are proof of his eccentric genius. To me, they are more likely evidence that he is suffering from mental instability that is harming his effectiveness as a person and a musician. Yes, there are sin areas Kanye needs to address, but he also seems to need help in dealing with a mind that appears to be increasingly fragmented and tormented.
However, Kanye too has been cursed with a success that has prevented him from truly looking at that which is broken in his life. Unwilling to critically examine his life, he justifies his clearly inappropriate behavior by pointing to his successes or to his perceived brilliance; looking at the 90 percent that he determines to be good while disregarding the 10 percent that is destroying his life and harming the lives of others. Sadly, those around him avoid confronting the 10 percent that is broken, so they turn up the 90 percent and hope it drowns out the darkness.
Donald Trump is a celebrity businessman who is currently the Republican frontrunner for the President of the United States. I will not vote for Donald Trump because of his character. This is something I would tell him if he was in the room with me. To put things as simply as possible, there is nothing in Trump’s public persona that has demonstrated to me the character of Christ or the fruit of the Spirit. I would not want him to lead our country or to run any area of the church I serve. I simply do not trust his motivations. From what I can see in the fruit of his life, he is very much a self-focused, self-centered person, someone who is unwilling to ask forgiveness from God or apologize for his mistakes and missteps. To make matters worse, he seems unrepentant or even proud of his unwillingness to demonstrate characteristics that one would equate with a Christ-follower or a respected statesmen.
Sadly, Donald Trump seems to believe that there is nothing broken, wrong or in need of improvement in his life. He is quick to point out what is wrong with the world, but almost completely oblivious or ardently opposed to admitting to anything that is wrong with himself. His popularity is the embodiment of a satanic foothold; championing the 90 percent we do well, while justifying and minimizing the 10 percent we do that is wicked. Some might say, Doug your percentage is too high or too low. I say, the percentage doesn’t really matter. What matters is that some individuals embrace a foundational satanic way of being that simply refuses to admit to or deal with profound faults and failings. Whenever sin is covered up, compartmentalized, justified and ignored, evil is given full reign to corrupt and destroy. This destruction is devastating, regardless of the percentages.
In many ways, Donald Trump is gathering up that which we’ve suppressed or hidden in our culture. He is uniting what we have excused, minimized or pretended wasn’t really there. He is bringing together the 10 percent we didn’t deal with because we were so enamored with the 90 percent that we could justify as good and righteous.
Depravity footholds don’t go away. The misogyny, racism, and xenophobia we excused for the sake of the greater good has not gone away. Instead, it is uniting around a man who seems unwilling to admit to any failings, faults or sins. Only time will tell if those who created the climate that has allowed Trump to thrive will be willing to repent and do the work necessary to make things right. For Trump, I still must have hope that it is not too late for him to find Jesus.
I am well aware of the fact that Trump, Kanye and Driscoll are not in the room with me. So why talk to men who will never hear a word I’m saying? Good question…What about me? Am I listening? What is my 10 percent? What do I justify, minimize and hide? Am I trying to do enough good to override or overcome the bad? Or am I willing to really bring the broken parts of my life into the light of Christ? Am I willing to allow for the difficult work of transformation to take root in the areas of my life that are contrary to God’s character? Have I yielded myself completely or have I given satan a foothold because of my pride, insecurities and the false praise of others? Search my heart, Lord…search our hearts, Lord. Please help us find freedom to deal with what’s broken in us as individuals and as a nation; complete freedom, 100 percent.