I don’t have the book in front of me, and if I did, I probably couldn’t find the quote. But about 25 years ago I read something by St. Francis de Sales in which he warned against judging others. He said something like this: we cannot say for certain that anyone is a thief, liar, or adulterer just because they’ve stolen, lied, or committed adultery in the past. Why? Because we are unable to look into their hearts at this moment and see what’s going on. Only God can. When we judge, however, we presume to have this God-like ability.
We must always, de Sales says, give our fellow sinners the benefit of the doubt that they’ve changed.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily apply this principle to the criminal justice system or our national defense policy, I think it’s a good principle for our personal lives. Indeed, I think it gets to the heart of Jesus’ words against judging.
With this in mind, you can imagine what I think of this week’s popular blog post by Rachel Held Evans entitled “Inside Mark Driscoll’s disturbed mind.”
How does Held Evans know not simply that Driscoll can be a boorish jerk at times, or that he believes things with which she strenuously disagrees—but that he has an “ugly heart,” that he has a “disturbed” and “troubled mind,” and that he “needs counseling”? Because of some recently unearthed comments that he posted pseudonymously to his church website 14 years ago.
Fourteen years ago.
By all means, at 31, he was old enough to know better, to be smarter—heck, to be a better human being! But is it fair to judge the man today based on what he said or did 14 years ago? Suppose that 14 years ago (or five years ago, or last year, or last month) someone secretly filmed or taped you at your worst. How would you look? What conclusions would people reach about you as a person right now? And would those conclusions be fair?
Driscoll has recently apologized for some of the very things that Held Evans doesn’t like about him. Is it impossible to believe that the Holy Spirit can actually change someone’s heart?
It’s hard to miss the irony when this same Rachel Held Evans complained in a post just two days earlier about her own critics, asking, “What do you do when religious people respond to your questions by calling you names? By mocking you? By casting you out?”
Held Evans doesn’t get many dissenters in the comments section of any of her posts, but she got at least one very smart one—a theologian and apologist from New Zealand whom I read named Glenn Peoples. He wrote:
I say this with not the least bit of hope that it will do any good, and I’d like to be wrong.
You say that there’s no excuse to be had because of “youth,” because he wasn’t even a youth. Fair enough. And yet, the very reason this needs to be pointed out is because you are aware that this was some time ago now, and you know that Mark – even though you evidently do not like him or what he says – no longer says things. He has “grown up,” even if you think he should have known better even then.
You say “I’m as sick as everyone else of talking about this guy.” But the truth is that you’ve spent many words criticising him. However, until now you’ve been criticising him for the person he is – or at very least the person you take him to be – now. Why then do you need, now, to give coverage to this gold nugget, this scoop that someone has uncovered, this smoking gun of how much worse Mark was years ago? Is it because you think he has regressed to that old self?
How is this not just a Christianised version of the British tabloid? yes, Mark has been a jerk and confirmed some male stereotypes in the process. There’s a certain stereotype about girls and gossip too.
Ponder the reactions you are now getting. One woman has said, in effect, that she has been concerned about mark for some time, but now she has seen THIS! As though this represents how bad he has gotten. But it doesn’t, does it?
I’ve criticised Mark in the past and have no problem with those who do. But this? This does not help your own reputation any more than it helps Mark’s.
Keep it juicy, RHE. Apparently it’s the thing now.