Mark Driscoll and Me and Our Desperate Desire To Be “Okay”


I remember well the moment right after school ended, standing beneath the vaulted windows of our high school commons area, the afternoon light pouring in on my friends and I. I remember looking right at her, my homecoming date, my maybe girlfriend, and performing for my friends a routine I had down pat. One I had crushed many with before. The Conservative Throw Down.


She was a sharp-witted, stunningly beautiful liberal who had reservations about me for this very reason. It wasn’t so much that I identified as a Republican, but that I seemed so hostile to liberalism. And I will never forget when she asked me, a bit annoyed, how gay marriage could possibly affect my life.


I smirked, looked at my buddies. Then I said: God, just give them an island! Send them to an island, then we can nuke it and, y’know, problem solved!


Most of my friends chuckled. A couple stayed quiet. But when I looked in her eyes, I knew that whatever chance I had with her had been killed. Her eyes were glistening. She started moving her mouth, as if to say something, but then didn’t because what do you even say in response to that?


Though I tried to reassure that I was only joking that of course I didn’t mean it, it really didn’t matter. That was that. She saw me for who I was.


Except she didn’t. Not really.


She didn’t know that, just underneath, I was scared and miserable, because I couldn’t make sense of my feelings. Thanks to the evangelical culture I grew up in, I understood gays to be the most vile people- nauseating to God. And it was a belief so cast-iron in my head that when I started to realize I was gay, a battle ensued. A smothering happened. I did whatever I could to bury, bury, bury. Bury with machismo, bury with callousness, bury with so much white-hot hatred. My heart was filled with hate for gay people, because if I hated them enough, then I couldn’t be them. And if I hated them loudly, no one would ever suspect a thing.


Now, I am not suggesting that Mark Driscoll is a closet gay. What I am saying is that when it comes to people and ideas we don’t understand, we tend to become afraid. And we hate what we’re afraid of.


In a culture that savagely deems some people okay and some people not okay, we tend to fight for recognition as an okay person. In terms of men, that means being athletic and tough and rubbing dirt in scraped knees. As kids, we hustled by putting each other down by saying, “don’t be such a girl!” and “hey Sally!” and it was because women were understood by us to be not okay. We had been conditioned to know them as unequal.


Privilege is something you work through over a lifetime. Certain normative prejudices aren’t realized until, usually, confronted by another, and sometimes, confrontation pushes one’s heels into the dirt. Makes them all the more ugly. This kind of person is typically insecure anyway, unsure of whether or not they make the okay category, anxious and afraid of being deemed not okay. So they hate. They hate and hate and hate the not okays until they’ve convinced themselves that they are okay.


Enter in destructive theology and it all falls like a trap around this person.


Mark Driscoll infamously preached to his congregation: “God hates some of you.” And that seems to summarize his theology.


Calvinism teaches that humans are not all equal. Some are loved by God, others are not. The loved ones are blessed, the unloved, cursed. Total depravity means we’re all just barely scraping by, God is trying to make the best of this awful situation, because we are, truly, the worst kind of company (in this sentiment, love is less a feeling more a required arrangement.)


Mark Driscoll has deep unresolved issues inside himself. That much is clear. His past, very public, obsessions with machismo and violence and his non-stop despicable aggression against women, gays, “chickafied” men, nonbelievers, and others is as clear a sign as I have ever seen of someone unhinged or incredible anxious about something. The latest revelation of his crude, ugly, horrifyingly I-cannot-believe-even-driscoll-said-that comments about women and LGBTQ people and men he deems “unmanly” is as good enough for me as an actual diagnosis.


He’s hiding something painful, I think. Deep inside. And I think what it is is an incredibly fragile ego… and a theology that has poisoned it.


It’s a theology that says that those who are not okay are not equal and by divine decree, are to be excluded and hated and mocked. And it’s beneath the dark cloud of that question: “am I okay or NOT?” that Mark rages wildly against all those that are different from him, all those that scare him, all those that bring out some revulsion in him. He calls them not okay because it shores up his own confidence that he is okay. He says women should shut up, gays are “damn freaks”, and everyone that disagrees with him is going to hell. And it is baptized prejudice. A collision of Calvinism and Narcissism.


And it’s a sad situation. A horrible one. But it goes beyond Driscoll. It is a culture that conditioned him to strive for a standard that he could never meet. It is a theology that mirrored it, that paralleled it a little too closely and mixed things up for him, leading him down this dark and desperate path. The path of a broken man with an unquenched thirst for validation.

  • Jane Halton

    It really makes you wonder what is going on inside him. I think you summed it up well….he wants to make himself feel ok. Once my blood stops boiling I realize just how sad it is.

    • Seriously. I’ve heard different theories, especially pertaining to his treatment of women. One suggested that prior to Grace he had dated several girls who were survivors of abuse and instead of becoming an advocate for women, he thought the solution was to put “Godly” men in control of women? I don’t know. But something is screwy inside him right now.

  • Interesting read – while everything in me wants to disagree and not give Driscoll any benefit of the doubt, or any way out… I think you’re right.

  • Nancy Le

    You are being far more compassionate than I feel at the moment, so thank you.

  • Lyndon James

    Thank you.

  • I loved this Ben, and it made my stomach jump in two specific places. First, when you were described how you were trying to show you were just “one of the guys” by making that remark. I HAVE BEEN THERE TOO!!! Second, when you talked about privilege and how it is both a lifelong struggle and how when confronted with it, one wants to dig in their heels and say “I’m okay and you’re NOT!” I have been there too. So many times. Speaking specifically of white privilege, Brene Brown said (I’m paraphrasing): whenever we talk about race, we have to talk about privilege. And when we talk about privilege, we get paralyzed by shame. I think that shame could actually be behind how you discussed Driscoll and others like him. They desperately want to be “OK” so they dig in their heels and fight. You’ve really hit on something here…thanks for the thoughtful post!

    • Thank you Kevin! And I LOVE BRENE. Such good insight from her.

      • Julia_O

        Another Brene fan here!

  • Katie

    Thank you.

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  • Hi Ben,

    The first I heard of this Pastor was from Rachel Held Evans and now yourself. I also googled him, in order not to be too biased.All I can say is that his pronouncements are not what can be considered to be ‘Kosher’ for an apparent ordained man of God.

    I’d say that in the post above you said things that came out of being a confused young man, which we can all understand, but Pastor Driscoll does not have that excuse & comes across as being very immature for a man in his 40s. Furthermore, this would not be an issue if he were some lone 40 something acting like a teenage rebel, but it is difficult given he is a Pastor of a large and (presumably) influential Church.

    I also note aside from his views on gays and women at one point he also referred, in a sermon, to an observant Jewish man as ” Mr. Goldilocks” …this is somewhat ironic given that he presumably takes the Bible seriously, as he clearly hasn’t read Leviticus 19:27, which is why some Orthodox Jewish men grow Payot, that is long curly sideburns (such as my oldest bro, who incidentally also served in the British armed forces). Real men don’t go around shouting the odds against women, gay people, Jews or anyone else for that matter, but are kind, courteous, have a sense of duty and honour, respect women and are in the true sense of the world ‘gentlemen’.

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