On loving the fall of Bob McDonnell, Mark Driscoll, and other hypocrites

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Bob McDonnell in 2010

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Bob McDonnell in 2010

Bob McDonnell in 2010

Bob McDonnell in 2010

I admit it. The conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell on 11 charges of corruption yesterday made me happy — and not just because I think he got what he deserved and that it will maybe dissuade other elected officials from taking bribes. It’s also because the guy made his way into public life as a stalwart of family values — remember his 1989 Regent University thesis, “The Republican Vision for the Family: the Compelling Issue of the Decade”? And then he tries to get himself off the legal hook with a novel estranged-and-crazy-wife defense. Hypocrite!

The same goes for my feelings about Mark Driscoll, the disgraced pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. After clawing his way to the top of the evangelical megachurch heap as the holiest alpha male in America, he stands accused of plagiarism, misuse of church funds, sock-puppetry, and vindictive bullying. Hypocrite!

I realize that my inclination to rejoice is not the most admirable of reactions. We smile when purveyors of morality turn out to have feet of clay because it kind of lets the rest of us off the hook. Quoting Proverbs 24:17 (“Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.”), my colleague Jonathan Merritt urges Christians not to celebrate Driscoll’s demise.

Of course, I’m not a Christian. And I’d point out that the Bible also has its nanny-nanny-boo-boo moments. Like the beloved Psalm 23‘s “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”

I’m thinking, too, about the particular animus against hypocrisy in the Bible’s prophetic tradition. The prophet Amos, for example, declares, “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.” And then there’s Jesus, in Matthew 23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

Let’s suppose that some of those teachers of the law and Pharisees had gotten their comeuppance and been relieved of their jobs. Would Jesus have called it (to quote a former Virginia congressman on yesterday’s McDonnell verdict) “a tragedy for the state”?

I don’t think so. I think he’d have called it a great day for the Jewish people.

  • Archie Haase

    American Politics and religion is about money and personal advancement. (EWTN and Evangelical Television) In the US religion is wrapped around fundraising. In US conservative politics money rules with a twisted morality, and diabolically manipulated ethics. Both American politics and religion are both disguised in family values. Bad becomes good and good becomes bad.

  • Chaplain Martin

    Mark,
    “I don’t think so. I think he’d have called it a great day for the Jewish people.” I think it’s a great day for ethics (still alive) a good day for justice (some does exist).

    Driscoll is either a sociopath or a man with a type of psychosis (maybe using religious ideation to help express it.)

  • Larry

    Religion is a great enabler of sociopathic behavior. Christianity moreso than many.

    One gets to avoid the consequences of one’s actions by claiming to have “found redemption Jesus”. One can claim social sanction for obnoxious, malicious and harmful behavior by claiming it is part of their “sincerely held beliefs”. Any act is excused if you say God commands it. Any prejudice given cause by claiming a Biblical basis.

    My attitude towards these sort of holy rolling nabobs is to show them the same level of grace, pleasantry and forgiveness they showed others when the roles were reversed. None whatsoever. The consequences of acting badly towards others is that it would be returned when the opportunity presents itself.

  • Garson Abuita

    From what’s been reported about Jesus, his view of messianism involved a lot more than just a rabbinate that was more interested in social justice over the minutiae of legal opinions. On the other hand, the Torah supports justice, not gloating: and it seems like justice was done in both Driscoll and McDonnell’s cases.

  • Chaplain Martin

    Mark,
    “And I’d point out that the Bible also has its nanny-nanny-boo-boo moments” You must be as old as I am using such expressions.
    I like your choice regarding the scripture you used from from old brothers Amos and from Matthew but not so much your “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” comment regarding the 23rd Psalm. Perhaps you could asked for enlightenment from your colleague Jonathan Merritt, or better yet a Jewish theologian, or just maybe a hospital chaplain whose patient finds comfort in:” “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” Every day can be a victory to a dying patient, a little more time with family and friends. A banquet in the face of death.

  • samuel Johnston

    It’s only human (even for you and me, Mark) to FEEL satisfaction at such an overdue slap down, but for me it is also disappointing that these guy’s replacements are already in position with the same old same old con jobs and the same sucker list.
    Reform, meaning simply honesty (let your yes be yes and your no be no), is not on the agenda for the Catholics or the Protestants. The “decent” folks in the Churches aid, abet, tolerate, and give cover to these evil doers. Morality and ethics are ever subservient to theology and the priesthood. Ironically, I think I can make a pretty good case that Jesus would not be on the side of the Church. He would get out his whip!

  • People can of course take what comfort they can from a psalm. But Psalms purports to be written by King David, a fighter who had enemies, foreign and domestic. The Hebrew (tsorirai) is straightforward. In Psalm 31 it is placed alongside of “neighbors” and “acquaintances.” The Lord favored King David (cf. King Saul), and what David received by way of earthly rewards made his enemies grind their teeth. The line says what it seems to say, imho. But OK, David probably wouldn’t have said, “Nanny nanny boo boo.”

  • Chaplain Martin

    Samuel,
    A thoughtful comment. Reform may not be on the
    agenda but it must be for change. To quote you:
    “The “decent” folks in the Churches aid, abet, tolerate, and give cover to these evil doers. Morality and ethics are ever subservient to theology and the priesthood.”
    While the push in Protestantism seem to grow larger and larger churches, there seems to be more accountability in churches with smaller congregations. This is a observation of a 74yr. old retired Baptist minister. The larger the membership the more layers of protection for the pastor. It is not always true, but often this leads to
    the pastor hiding from serving the individual members. Actually he or she can not longer development individual relationships to the whole congregation so a select few end up surrounding the pastor. The more staff members the more isolation and insulation to the pastor from the congregation as a whole. Mega churches especially lend themselves to glorify the pastor.

  • Josiah Marineau

    Mark,

    You are not Amos (who as a prophet is speaking on behalf of God, so it is really the Lord speaking in the passage you cite) nor Jesus. You might pause to consider the indiscretions in your own life that would come to light should you receive the sort of scrutiny that people like Driscoll and McDonnell come under. I refer to the relevant passages in Matthew about worrying about the log in your own eye. It is much easier to criticize the behavior of people who stood for ideals that they failed to live up to than individuals who have stood for nothing at all. I suggest you put yourself in the former camp instead of chortling at the failures of others. Have a nice day.

    Cheers, Josiah Marineau

  • samuel Johnston

    Re: Josiah,
    “speaking on behalf of God” Really Josiah. Poor God cannot speak for himself?
    “ideals that they failed to live up to” Josiah, you mean like”elected officials … taking bribes”,”misuse of church funds” That’s common thievery, not failure to live up to ideals.
    And this charge from the head of your club. Does he accept your argument?
    ” And then there’s Jesus, in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
    Josiah, you may have ideals, but you lack principles.

  • samuel Johnston

    Re: “Mega churches especially lend themselves to glorify the pastor.”
    Congregationalism puts a premium on the appearance of extemporaneous speaking, especially prayer. While this may be valuable in private meditation,
    it promotes egocentric, prideful, and deceitful behavior, and yes – self glorification.
    That is one reason I liked using Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It directs the mind away from the individual leading the prayer.