Why We Care About Mark Driscoll

A couple days ago, I wrote a blog post about Mark Driscoll. No big deal. In nearly ten years of blogging, I’ve written something like 1,200 posts, and a handful of them have mentioned Mark – some in a positive way, and others not so much. But this one was different. It hit a nerve with some people. Well over ten percent of the page views that I’ve gotten in the past 28 months have come in the past three days since that post went live.* I feel a bit dirty right now. Like I need a shower. I just got out of the shower, though, and I still feel dirty. I don’t regret anything I wrote – I stand by all of it.

Mark Driscoll is a very gifted communicator. He’s funny, he’s culturally savvy, he has a quick mind, he takes theology very seriously. Though this may shock a lot of people – in particular, his critics – from personal experience with him, I’ve found him to actually be a somewhat pastoral guy. He is extremely effective at stirring people to action, especially people that the rest of the churches in Seattle, in Washington, in the US have not been effective at stirring up – young adult men. He is entrepreneurial and willing to take creative risks.

None of those things has been the reason my blog post has gotten as much attention as it has.

Mark Driscoll has an amazing ability to say things that people find harsh, critical, prideful, and hurtful. He has a style of leadership that smells of authoritarian domination. His views on Christian doctrine anger many people. He bullies people through inflammatory language and histrionics. He often makes a big, big deal out of what I consider silly non-issues. Many women and men are upset by his misogynistic language and attitudes.

None of those things has been the reason my blog post has gotten as much attention as it has.

My post on Driscoll was unashamedly critical. It was a little clever, to make a point. I don’t think it was particularly inflammatory. Sure, it stirred the pot, but let’s face it – that pot was already boiling over. I’d like to take a moment and ask us all to just step back, take a deep breath, take another deep breath, and calm down.

Whether you are an energetic fan or energetic critic of Driscoll, I’d like us to all do something counter-intuitive, and think more deeply about this whole thing. Take the time to be sophisticated in your thinking. Don’t get angry because Mark said this or that. Don’t get angry because Mark’s critics just don’t understand. Because this thing isn’t about what you think it is. Here’s what it’s all really about . . .




O.k., I’ll be honest. I don’t know.


What I do know is that Mark Driscoll is an archetype. He is either the archetypal hero or the archetypal villain.

Very few people know the man. Few of the people who think they know him actually do. But he represents for us a version of good or bad that grabs something deep down inside, and demands attention. Why? The truth is, whether Mark Driscoll falls in disgrace or thrives and expands his influence, it won’t affect most of our lives or decisions. If he disappeared from the planet tomorrow, we would all very likely elevate someone else to take his place, either as “most-loved” or “most-hated.”

Archetypes have value in the stories we live. But only inasmuch as we empower them to do so. I give the archetypal villains in my life power when I get angry. I give the archetypal heroes in my life power when I give fawning praise.

This Mark Driscoll thing isn’t about Mark Driscoll. It’s about my heart. It’s about yours. Sadly, IMHO, I think Mark’s constant insistence that “it’s all about Jesus,” rings hollow here, because my blog post didn’t get the attention it did because of Jesus. It wasn’t about the gospel. I wish.

What does Mark represent for you, oh reader? The kind of bold truth-teller you wish you could be? The kind of monster that gives all Christians a bad name? How are you empowering Mark – or rather, the Driscoll archetype – in your own heart?

Let me be clear – I know this stuff has bigger implications. I know there are real-life issues out there with real-life-Mark-Driscoll that need some attention and action. But if we are going to do well, we’ll approach this with some considered reflection, hopefully some prayer, and some words that are fair, kind, and generous, even when they’re pointed and fueled by passion. Then, when we act, in whatever way we act, we’ll have done so with a clear-head and deeper character.



*Most days I don’t even look at my blog stats. I don’t do ads on the blog, so I make no money from higher stats. I usually don’t use the stats to boost my self-esteem (frankly, most of the time I’d have lower self-esteem if that were so).

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  1. Once again your brilliance Steve shines through. I agree with you that for most folks Driscoll has simply become a lightning rod to defend or attack, and not much more. What frustrates me is I think both sides kind of miss the point. As you’ve pointed out excellently and quite fairly I think, that he has done some good things, and he’s also done some things that folks take offense (rightly so) to. Nobody’s perfect, and I think that’s what always drove me the craziest about the staunch Mars Hill folks, (by in large) they looked to Driscoll as some sort of patron saint of how Christianity should be in this day and age. And that’s just false. Whether you buy into Driscoll’s way of doing Christianity or another way of doing Christianity it doesn’t make one ‘right’ or the other ‘wrong’ and the assumption that they were the “only way” to do things just ticked me off. I understand there are certain tenants that without such you really shouldn’t be calling yourself a Christian (monotheism, belief in Jesus as your savior etc) but the extent that they take it to and the fact that while they say there are ‘open hand’ issues, except that if you don’t buy into those that’s not right either just frustrates me to no end. Christians should band together, bringing our different perspectives and utilize them to help others come to Christ, not drive other Christians away because we become so offensive to each other.

    To me while I very much disagree with Driscoll (and have before and will again argue he’s quite sexist) he does help bring people to Christ, and that’s a good thing. I think you’re right on the nose that he’s become just an archetype, but at the end of the day perhaps we in society need to get past that, and realize he’s not near as ‘perfect’ or ‘horrible’ as we might think he is. No need to vilify, no need to heap praise upon, take a reasoned approach and not get caught up in the hype and vitriol that seems to surround the man.

    Thanks again for such a fantastic blog, your insight has always been incredible.

  2. Thanks Erik . . . watch out with all that praise, though. I’d rather not be an archetype myself 😉

  3. Thank you for writing this, and for the preceding post as well. The former was linked to me from a friend (who got it from her dad) because we’ve been discussing women and faith, and Driscoll’s dogma inevitably crept into the conversation. I agree with you that he really has become an archetype–a face to hold up and either cheer or jeer. (I’m in the latter category.) I think that the approach you are suggesting, that it be clear-headed and of deeper character is not only rational and logical (it’s much easier to convince someone of something when one is not foaming at the mouth), but that it is compassionate, and ultimately, more Christ-like. Thank you for pointing that out, and for acknowledging your own fueling the flames.

    I think that more focus should be put on the drawing together rather than the pulling apart; to fix the breach rather than to make it wider. But it’s always the question of ‘how?’ Should you write more on that subject, I would be interested in your thoughts.

  4. Thank you for visiting and commenting Elle. I hope we can find a way to not only approach contentious issues like this with grace and without knee-jerk reactions, but also respond with some more careful, nuanced thinking. We all get fired up about various things from time to time – it’s good to feel deeply about things . . . hopefully we can learn how to channel our energies in helpful directions.

  5. Thank you, Steve, for reminding us to step back and see how we contribute somehow to the larger story we’re all part of in one way or another. A kind reminder for us to be human together, yes? ?
    I can’t help but wonder how our reactions and responses to Mark stem from our own experience, pain, gain, and participation in the larger Christian church system of domination, submission, power, and control. Because we each have a different story, and each have different positions of power and privilege, our responses will be just as varied and diverse. Is he a villain? A hero? Why one or the other? Or…human? I’m curious about Mark’s story. What injustices has he endured that have influenced and informed his actions?

    No, I’m not condoning his methods. The destruction and trauma others have endured are very real and valid, and not to be dismissed. I am just wondering if our responses actually fuel what we’re fighting against. In fact, I think our responses give us more insight into this larger archetypal story we find ourselves in.

    It takes enormous internal and kind work to step back and see how we each have been part of this archetypal human story. The work of developing “deeper character.”

    I hope and believe that it is possible to be both compassionate and indignant, and to offer our voices to speak out against an unjust system that leads to destruction. Perhaps this way of being is the “small gate and narrow road” Christ speaks of in Matthew 7:13-14.

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