That’s a question posed in this article by Jonathan Merritt entitled: “Is Mark Driscoll this generation’s Pat Robertson?”
Here’s a part of the article:
Robertson’s incendiary comments are often political or prophetic, while Driscoll’s are usually theological or social, but it’s difficult to discern which are more provocative. And while Driscoll’s list of miscues stretch long for someone of such a young age, Robertson has had more opportunities at 83-years-old. What if Mark Driscoll had a daily television show where he could say anything he wanted? Might we not surmise that before long he would amass a Robertson-esque portfolio? It seems likely.
Another growing similarity between the two men is the way they’ve been able to polarize even the core of their own Christian bases. Mainstream Christians desperately want to ignore both figures, but they can’t. They just can’t. There are too many broadcasts and podcasts, book sales and supporters. So instead, many work to distance themselves from either leader whenever their names arise in conversation.
When it comes to Robertson, Christians—even those who voted for him in the ‘88 primaries and watched his television show, “The 700 Club”—are now quick to assert they don’t support him. “I’m not a Pat Robertson kind of Christian,” someone might say.
The same is true for Mark Driscoll. He’s been heavily criticized by Christian voices across the spectrum, and according to reports, several attendees at the Catalyst Conference in Dallas walked out during his talk. He’s even being marginalized by some Reformed Christians (i.e. Calvinists) who precipitated his rise to prominence. “I’m not a Mark Driscoll kind of Calvinist,” some have remarked to me.
Over the years, both men have been pressured to issue apologies and clarifications. Ironically, when I received word of the comment made at Catalyst, I was in Malawi working with Christian brothers and sisters there who’ve been wracked by environmental devastation. I wondered why an American Christian leader would make insensitive and flippant comments about such a serious topic. One might make the case that in such a situation, it is beneficial for Christians who disagree with their perspectives to distance themselves. After all, when an influential Christian claims to follow Jesus but makes inappropriate remarks, those outside the faith may think they represent all Christians. Unless others speak up.
Unlike Mark Driscoll, I don’t believe that God is going to burn up the world with a literal fire, but I am reminded of another fire mentioned in the Bible. The Apostle James calls the tongue a “small spark” that can set a forest ablaze. When Christians produce leaders with a penchant for bombastic speech—as each generation does—we’re reminded again of the power of words. They can destroy or heal, burn up or breathe life. We get to determine how we use our words, just like each generation gets to choose whether to support those who misuse theirs.
What do YOU think? I’d love to hear your comments.