Driscoll Makes Plagiarism Complaint Disappear

As has been noted by a number of observers, the allegations of plagiarism against megapastor Mark Driscoll assembled by talk show host Janet Mefferd have disappeared from her website without explanation. Just like that. For now, anyway. 

This comes just a day after RD published Eric Miller’s piece on the ways that terms like “Civility,” “Unity,” and “Tolerance” are manipulated in order to draw attention away from indiscretions, injustice, and other transgressions. In fact Driscoll himself, with his meandering attempt to redefine Tolerance, makes a cameo toward the end of Miller’s piece.

So perhaps Driscoll read it and took exception to the suggestion that he doesn’t make full use of the weapons at his disposal. Specifically, the section on Unity may have given him some ideas for handling the accusations (he has, after all, been known to take “suggestions” from the work of others, right?) After Rachel Held Evans had criticized an evangelical conference for the gender disparity in its speakers she was criticized, not because she was wrong, but because she dared to point it out publicly:

Paul Pastor had criticized Evans for noticing, then asked his readers to join him in a prayer for Christian unity…Pastor draws on a shared value of healthy public speech to distract attention from a case of institutional discrimination.

Driscoll, with his fairly low opinion of women, might have taken particular note of the fact that a woman was the cause of “disunity” in Miller’s example and decided to try his hand at the Unity card to make the plagiarism charges disappear. As Carl Trueman wrote on the First Things blog “we can only speculate at this point as to why Ms. Mefferd has removed the material from her site.” 

But the greater likelihood is that nothing quite so high-minded as “Unity” (nor ideological as misogyny) was required to put an end to the accusations. Although he’s appropriately reluctant to make any accusations, Trueman suspects that something more nefarious is at play here, something worrisome (emphasis mine):

the health of the Christian subcultures in our society depends to an important extent upon the freedom of the Christian press; and that in turn depends upon having plenty of public voices and different groups presenting their different perspectives without the threat of being silenced by those with power and money.

This theory received a sizable boost today from Ingrid Schlueter, who resigned* from her post as one of Janet Mefferd’s producers. Schlueter writes

All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.

As far as fixes go, Trueman and Miller might disagree slightly. Trueman believes that the bright lights of free and open discourse will favor the Truth: 

As John Milton said regarding truth: “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.” I am with Milton here: The freer the press, the less the innocent have to fear and the more the guilty need to be worried.

We’d like to think so. But the rub, as Miller argues, is that all too often the light merely shines on crafty rhetoric. Read Miller’s piece here

*Ingrid Schlueter resigned, she was not fired as this post originally stated. RD regrets the error. 

Evan Derkacz, editor of Religion Dispatches, was previously an editor and writer at the award-winning web magazine AlterNet.org from 2003-2007. Before that, he worked for Tikkun magazine. His writing has appeared in McSweeney's, AlterNet, The Huffington Post and Start Making Sense (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004). He has been interviewed on Air America and Pacifica Radio.