On the Insanity of Freedom, or, Another Mark Driscoll Rant

First off, I am reading too many books at once.  I am currently reading Cannery Row by Steinbeck (again), Faith and VIolence by Merton (as referred to in an earlier post), A Tempest by Cesaire, and The Consolations of Philosophy by de Botton, and Speaking Treason Fluently by Wise. All good books but why do I always want to read so many at once? Is that called ADD?   From time to time I read something and it relates to something entirely different, that’s how my brain works. The associative brain is always drawing lines to disparate ideas, sometimes way out of left field. So while reading Tim Wise’s Speaking Treason Fluently, I was side swiped by a section on the psychological condition called drapetomania.  Drapetomania was (and thank God not is) :  “coined in 1851 by Samuel A. Cartwright as a mental illness that caused black slaves to flee captivity.” Cartwright, and the “wisdom” of the day claimed that the desire and impulse to escape slavery, and the punishments associated with it, must have been a form of insanity. To seek freedom and to want to shake off the chains of bondage, in their eyes, could only be madness. Slavery was the sane and rational state and to seek to leave it could only mean one had left their right mind. Not only that, but it was also the divinely ordained path. Equally, it was believed that a white person who shirked the responsibility of “correct” slave ownership (as catalogued below)would be the cause of such madness, implicit in it. As Cartwright stated in his writing,

If the white man attempts to oppose the Deity’s will, by trying to make the negro anything else than “the submissive knee-bender” (which the Almighty declared he should be), by trying to raise him to a level with himself, or by putting himself on an equality with the negro; or if he abuses the power which God has given him over his fellow-man, by being cruel to him, or punishing him in anger, or by neglecting to protect him from the wanton abuses of his fellow-servants and all others, or by denying him the usual comforts and necessaries of life, the negro will run away; but if he keeps him in the position that we learn from the Scriptures he was intended to occupy, that is, the position of submission; and if his master or overseer be kind and gracious in his hearing towards him, without condescension, and at the same time ministers to his physical wants, and protects him from abuses, the negro is spell-bound, and cannot run away.

One could argue, disgustingly, that at least he argues the master, “or overseer be kind and gracious in his hearing towards him; without condescension, and at the same time ministers to his physical wants, and protects him from abuses…”. However, the result and the form and the system of those “niceties” cannot be viewed as made right do to their intrinsic violence. The very nature of the relationship, no matter the kindness of the master, is domineering and founded upon a destruction of identity. Cartwright continues, and tellingly shows his hand, when listing further methods of ensuring the sanity of slaves.

If treated kindly, well fed and clothed, with fuel enough to keep a small fire burning all night–separated into families, each family having its own house–not permitted to run about at night to visit their neighbors, to receive visits or use intoxicating liquors, and not overworked or exposed too much to the weather, they are very easily governed–more so than any other people in the world.


If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away

And since drapetomania was an illness, one would be keen to ask if there was a cure or solution this malady. Cartwright points out that those on “the line (Mason Dixon Line)” were “decidedly in favor of whipping them out of it, as a preventive measure against absconding, or other bad conduct. It was called whipping the devil out of them.” While it is easy to see as absolute bullshit in 2013, the mind of 1850s Southern America (and some Northerners) compartmentalized things so neatly. The slave must be mad,” they thought.  In the face of escapes, protests, and the threat of revolt, Cartwright and his analogues chose to explain to, rather than question the system of slavery itself, explain things only as lunacy. Now discredited as pseudo-science and racist (not to mention idiotic), drapetomania is only used to explain a broader drive to run away, and not racial or systemically applied.

However, and here is where the Mark Driscoll connection comes in, I cannot help but notice echoes of these ideas still extant today.  On the surface the hyper-masculine Driscoll and Cartwright seem miles apart and to be fair I am not claiming Driscoll is a racist or that Cartwright is a misogynist. However, the power and the construction of escape and seeking freedom as a malady seem very relevant, specifically in Driscoll’s views towards women.

Let us look to Amy and her horrific experience at Mars Hill, as revealed in her story over at Jesus Needs New PR.  In her struggling marriage, Amy and her husband went to church for help and assistance and prayer. Through years and months of counseling by pastors and elders, including Mark Driscoll, Amy says that she felt, “a ‘problem child.'” She was made to feel like the problem, that the issues of her marriage were her fault. This was show, in no better example than when Driscoll, reportedly, “started the meeting by telling us he was convinced that I had demons,” says Amy, “and then he went on to add that my demons were ‘sexual demons’.” And, “Mark then announced that he would be performing an exorcism.” She continues,

Mark concluded that I was a terrible wife to my husband. Even when my husband looked at porn, Mark blamed me because I wasn’t doing my “wifely duty”. I felt violated when sex was expected of me. I was intensely miserable and neglected throughout my marriage, but Mark deemed that irrelevant because I was the wife and my duty was to serve my husband sexually.

Sound familiar? It reeks of Cartwright, blaming the victim, attributing sickness or evil to those seeking to leave, blaming an innocent for the evil of the situation. While Amy was not enslaved, abused by her husband, and please know…I AM NOT TRYING TO MAKE THAT CONNECTION…the similarity is that the oppressed group was/is blamed for the crimes of the oppressor (in this case Driscoll and his power structure of men over women). After Amy decided to divorce her husband, “Mark told her that she was no longer welcome at Mars Hill.”

In many other cases Driscoll has;

blamed women for the adultery of their husbands. 

Called women weaker vessels. 

that women in ministry are not as effective.

and in his book, written with his wife, blames her “sexual sin” for the issues in their marriage.  and that the solution to other issues it to just have sex (not talk about emotions). from Real Marriage: “As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I came to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it’s that simple…” and, “One night…I had a dream in which I saw some things that shook me to my core. I saw in painful detail Grace sinning sexually during a senior trip she took after high school when we had just started dating. It was like watching a film–something I cannot really explain but the kind of revelation I sometimes receive…Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her. ”

The best, or saddest, examples here are the response to Amy, Haggard’s wife, and his own wife’s sexual sin. His response is that something must be wrong with those women. Amy must have demons if she wants out. Mrs. Haggard must have slipped or shirked her duties. His own wife sinned sexually (before they were even dating) and was therefore responsible for their marriage issues. The women were labeled as sinners, similar to drapetomaniacs, they were at fault. Forget blaming the system that creates the dichotomy, forget shifting ones view when confronted with broken people, according to Cartwright and Driscoll we are to blame the women. Blame those who are suffering. Blame those who struggle. The good thing is that Cartwright was seen for what he really was, a kook and a racist. Only time will tell how we view Driscoll.

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