A few months ago, I tweeted this: “Reason #437 I love being an Episcopalian: No one knows who Mark Driscoll is, much less why he’s apologizing.”
Driscoll is a popular Seattle-based evangelical pastor, known in part for his complementarian opinions on sex and marriage (i.e., the view that God calls men and women to complementary but distinct roles in marriage, family, and public life). Driscoll likes his men macho, his women submissive, and his books on the best-seller list. His apology came after revelations that the marketing firm hired to promote Driscoll’s book Real Marriage employed unethical tactics to maneuver the book to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list.
Who Mark Driscoll is and what he’s done is less relevant to this post than that he is a provocative figure in evangelicalism, and as such, a near-guaranteed driver of online traffic. Writing about Driscoll, or any of the perennial controversies for American evangelicals (abortion, gay marriage, gender roles, contraception, sex, political affiliation) will almost certainly drive online traffic your way. The traffic might not always be welcome, as controversial posts are bound to attract unpleasant Internet trolls along with thinking folk. But as a freelance writer, I understand that my name recognition and paychecks (spare as they are) depend less on the quality of page views than on the quantity.
Given this dynamic and the cultural sway held by evangelicalism (we mainline Christians are continually frustrated when the news media equate the “Christian” perspective with the evangelical perspective), writers have a strong incentive to claim evangelical identity, even if such an identity is not quite accurate.
(And if you like this post, or don’t like it, or it makes you Think Great Thoughts, I’d appreciate if you’d comment on the OnFaith site. Their comment section tends to be well moderated and in the first 24 hours of this post, the only comment is from someone encouraging me not to be so cynical about the state of Christendom because, after all, people aren’t dying of religious wars between various types of Christians the way they did in times past. True, that, but not really a reflection on what I actually wrote!)