Stay at Home Dads and Why Mark Driscoll Doesn’t Get It

Recently a new friend spoke with me about the virtues and popularity of a congregation and pastor out of Seattle, Washington. The pastor is Mark Driscoll and the church is called Mars Hill (not to be confused with the Mars Hill in Michigan pastored by Rob Bell). I tend to be a churchy dude myself, and I try very hard to be open to new ideas and dynamic speakers, so I thought I’d give this pastor a shot. I found the following video dedicated to Stay At Home Dads on Mark Driscoll’s website and I was sorely disappointed. What follows below is my critique of what I witnessed. Everyone is welcome to comment, but I ask that we keep it civil.

Stay At Home Dads

Watch the video for yourself before you read my critique of it in the comments section below. I’d like to hear your initial reactions and then see what you think of my criticisms.

For full disclosure, both my wife and I are gainfully employed and we have no children. That being said, this is not a majority stake marriage. We are best friends, and my experience with best friends is that you don’t tell each other what to do. My understanding of the trajectory of the biblical text is that egalitarian marriages are godly and even preferable to forms of patriarchy. Stated another way, my wife and I are in this together, 100/100, and if I could best “provide” for my family by raising my kids at home, then so be it.

Thanks for engaging,
-C. Lambeth

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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7 Responses to Stay at Home Dads and Why Mark Driscoll Doesn’t Get It

  1. C_Lambeth says:

    My chief complaint with the Driscolls’ teaching here is that they act like their personal preference on how to live out a biblical marriage is the only one. They make it seem as though anyone who disagrees with them is not only worse than an unbeliever (is that a Satanist?), but not really even a man (or a real woman) at all, and that to disagree with them is to disagree with the Bible. Apparently distinctions between the word of God and our interpretive approach to it is an area that Driscoll remains unaware of. To speak in technical terms, that is major bad for a man who leads such a popular church network.

    To be fair, I think the Driscolls make an acceptable case for one way to have a God-honoring marriage. The problem is that there are other models that honor God just as well and do not dictate marriage or parental responsibilities on the basis of gender alone, or at least not the Western cultural understandings and impositions of what manhood or womanhood ought to be.

    The problem appears to be anchored in the Driscolls’ understanding of the twice-quoted passage in 1Timothy 5:8 which reads, And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (NRSV). But Mr. Driscoll has adapted the verse to make it say, ‘If any man does not provide for his family. He has denied his faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’” The Driscolls go on to interpret the verse according to their male-centered understanding and use it as the basis for developing what seems to be a bewildering personal vendetta against dads who decide to raise their own children.

    First of all, I have 14 different English versions of the Bible, and the personal pronoun that each and every one of them uses in 1 Timothy 5:8 is not “Man,” and certainly not “husband” but rather “any” or “anyone.” That’s right, as in gender inclusive. The Greek word for “man” and “husband” is also absent in this verse. To be fair, the Greek noun for family member here (oikeion) is masculine, but we should be hesitant to merely assume that this excludes all females. The bottom line is that to make this passage apply only to married men with children is wrong-headed.

    Secondly, the Driscolls act as if a person can only “provide” for his or her family if they are out of the home making money, and that staying at home and caring for children or other loved ones does not count as “work” or “providing” in the least. What I mean is that it never seems to have dawned upon them that a family member (either husband or wife) “provides” for his or her family in a MAJOR way by taking care of children. Even if a family follows what has become the traditional, Western household arrangement between husband and wife, I would NEVER minimize the role some wives take on or say that they are not “providing” for the family by taking care of their children. That’s just dumb.

    Thirdly, Mrs. Driscoll insults all women everywhere who have decided to pursue a different path regarding careers and children or who are childless either by choice or by circumstance. She says that women are built to have babies and stay home and then tries to pass this off as the only biblical way to be a woman. The insinuation is that if you don’t do this, then not only are you not following Christ, but you have no purpose in life either. Say, Single-Childless-Jane, would you like to come to the women’s group next Tuesday?

    Fourth, in this same mini-diatribe from Mrs. Driscoll, she insinuates that if a wife won’t be a good girl, stay at home and make babies, she’s a busy-body, who is impure, uncontrolled and one who maligns the word of God. Similarly, husbands can’t do what the wife does because men are too selfish, can’t tend to the kids’ physical or emotional needs, and don’t even have the ability to recognize those things. Oh yeah, if the dad absolutely HAS to be part of the equation, then ok, but it’s the woman who is built to be at home.

    But the worst of the worst was yet to come. Towards the end, Mr. Driscoll flatly says, “If you cannot provide for your family, you are not a man.” He immediately backtracks and adds the caveat that if a man’s a cripple, then that’s okay, we can still call him a man. Driscoll says this again in a minute, but even then it’s with a smirk on his face and a shake of his head like he doesn’t really even believe it.

    I don’t know his level of sincerity, and I do know what he’s getting at, but Driscoll doesn’t seem to have considered all the different circumstances that might be hanging over the men in his audiences. Times are tough for a lot of people. What about the husband and father who is out of work and trying his absolute best to get a job but is simply out of options, not for lack of effort or desire, but for opportunity? Mark Driscoll and wife basically just called him a loser and said he worships Satan. Say, Tom, would you like to come to the men’s group next Tuesday?

    This is not okay. Driscoll fails to make any distinction whatsoever between what the Bible actually says and his narrow interpretation of it. I realize that to some, it might seem like I am overreacting. On the most basic level, I appreciate that Mark Driscoll wants men to be responsible husbands, fathers and family members, and that it IS important for mothers and fathers to do their best for each other and for their kids. This is all healthy and good. The problem is that he seems to believe that the Bible allows for only one family model and that this model came not through human cultures, but rather like the King James Version, it dropped straight from heaven in perfect, angelic, and human culture-free form. That is a mistake.

    If anyone doubts this, I ask that you consider a man who is somewhat skeptical of church. This is a man you have invited to church services many times and one who you have loved and heavily invested in with the hope that he might improve his opinion of Christians and maybe even meet Christ and fall in love with him too. He and his wife have decided together that he will stay at home and raise the kids until they can go to school because she has a lucrative career and feels called and passionate about the work. You finally get him to come to the church gathering and open up to the idea that maybe God is real and really does love him. Then Team Driscoll takes the stage, and in no uncertain terms insults your friend’s wife, marriage and manhood. How low would you sink in your chair? Or would you walk out with your friend when he goes half-way through the sermon? Is it any wonder that some people like Jesus but not his church?

    Thanks for reading me.
    -CL

  2. Brad says:

    I think it might be easy to miss that he seems to be addressing several things all at once. I won’t pretend to know the priority of these focal points, but here is what I heard… 1) He is addressing the tendency in our culture for men to be lazy and defer their responsibilities to women. Men are just not being men. 2) He is claiming that God has a very specific design for men and women of their roles and responsibilities. This is actually called complimentarianism, not a patriarchial system… a very vast and significant difference. 3) He mostly is not adressing families without children. The exception would be addressed in my first point. 4) He is adreessing a very common idol in our country – money. Too many Christian families are concerned with money and issues around money over the Christ-centered raising of their children. 5) He specifically discussed that he is not a legalist about this. There are exceptions but the man is the leader and provider for a family first and foremost. If he is able but willingly not meeting these responsibilities, he is not in line with God’s design. 6) In his quotation of 1 Timothy 5:8 I don’t think he is out of line of what it actually says. It says that a man that does not provide (insert my interpretation of willingly) he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. What does worse than an unbeliever mean? I don’t know but I also didn’t hear him say anything about not being a man/woman. I did hear him say that those men/women might be outside God’s design (far from being a satanist). 7) He even states that statistics back up this model. The efficasy of God’s design (at least this interpretation of it) stacks up to worldly wisdom.

    I think the biggest issue that will come up here is the difference between egalitarianism vs. complimentarionism (a worthy debate). The second biggest issue comes from more fundamental beliefs, i.e. whether scriptures should be taken as written for all people and for all time or if there are filters for interpretation such as cultural/time period. Keep in mind that Driscoll is using a Biblical framework based on many other scriptures not discussed here.

    Thoughts/comments?

  3. C_Lambeth says:

    Brad,
    I hear what you are saying, and I agree that the Driscolls seem to have more in view than just stay at home dads. He/ we are right to criticize men who are lazy, immature and expect other people to do all the work for them. The problem is that the originating question and video title was in relation to stay at home dads, and nothing else. Whether they intended it or not, everything else Team Driscoll said was within that context, and that’s why they are way off base. Perhaps it could be argued that they didn’t really mean stay at home fathers at all, but rather lazy and self-entitled husbands/ fathers, but this is not what he said, and he could barley even read the question off the teleprompter the first time without chortling through his derision at the idea of a husband and father choosing to “provide” for his family by being a stay at home dad. The Driscolls should be criticized for this.

    Secondly, like Mark, you still seem to be orienting the 1Timothy verse solely towards married men with children and have yet to acknowledge that taking care of children is a legitimate way to “provide” for one’s family regardless of which parent does so. Similarly, Mark Driscoll acts as if the Bible developed independently of culture, but not in, with and through culture. That is a mistake that we should not perpetuate. One challenge for us is to figure out the trajectory of Scripture and then apply it to our own cultural contexts in light of how it was brought to bear on its original audiences. They can be the same, but they can also be different. To rip out the letter of the “law” in New Testament teachings and uncritically slam them onto contemporary cultures without considering any of the respective differences could, in some cases, force the exact opposite of what God originally intended.

    As for complementarianism, I would appreciate it if you would explain some of the “vast” differences between it and patriarchy. It seems that complementarianism often tries to whitewash or dress up various applications of patriarchy while leaving the underlying principles unchanged. For example, you stated that “the man is the leader… for the family,” but this automatically assumes a majority-stake marriage where, when push comes to shove, one party always gets priority in telling the other person what to do, and such authority is based on nothing more than having specific sexual parts. It also assumes a win/ lose scenario whereby rank must be pulled to exert one’s will over the other. Conversely, egalitarian marriages press for win/ win resolutions, and when conflicting opinions cannot be reconciled, the partners alternate in deciding who gets to make the specific call in the specific situation, usually based on expertise rather than sexual genitalia.

    That being said, just like Calvinism and Arminianism, I affirm that both complementarianism and egalitarianism are biblical models available to believers. We simply cannot present the choices as godly vs. ungodly or biblical vs. unbiblical. Of course I think that one is superior to the other, but I am hesitant to hand people their hat when it comes to these issues. I recognize that some options are viable in certain relationships while others are not. THE problem arrives, as the Driscolls have recently highlighted, when only one example or model is cast as the only available model. This is a mistake that pastors should seek to avoid in my opinion.

    Finally, “Satan worshiper” was some creative license on my part as I tried to think of what would be “worse than an unbeliever.” Worshiping the enemy seemed like a plausible option, but I admit that those were my words, not Mark Driscoll’s.

    -Corbin

  4. Larry says:

    I think Mark Driscoll makes it very clear that men should be the bread winners and women should stay at home. Mark Driscoll comes up short in a couple of areas.

    1) He should provide a family budget that shows how on one income it is possible to support a middle class family in today’s world. Unless the man has some very high paying profession (doctor, dentist, corp. executive, etc.) it is just not posssible for a typical bread winner.

    2) His wife – yes, his wife – should provide her household budget. In other words, how much money does she need to manage her household. Is her budget realistic for a typical family?

    3) Mark Driscoll should make a full financial disclosure of his income, his tax breaks on his home because he is a pastor, etc. Is his income typical for a family?

    • C_Lambeth says:

      I agree with you, Larry. Mark Driscoll and wife make their opinion on men’s and women’s roles very clear. The problem is that they try and pass these opinions off as if they were the Bible’s and not their own. Driscoll may have “read the whole book,” but he conveniently ignores and creatively interprets verses that might otherwise challenge his position.

      -CL

  5. C_Lambeth says:

    Check out this related CNN Money Article: “The Changing Face of the American Working Dad

  6. Pingback: Stay At Home Dads Worse Than Unbelievers? @PastorMark Thinks So | Homebrewed Theology

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