Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mad Ministers

I saw someone on Twitter this week compare AMC's artful series "Mad Men" to the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. I see it. But I'm seeing something else, less reflective but more indicting. This is no "Gospel According to Mad Men" -- I'll leave that to Chris Seay -- but I do see in the characters certain male archetypes, rich in their falleness, that have parallel to certain ministerial archetypes. If this smacks too much of "relevance" or you have no reference point for "Mad Men," feel free to move on. But I think the show reminds me of some different pastoral types.

The Don Draper

Named for "Mad Men"'s main mad man, this is the prototypical rockstar pastor. Having once earned respect with astonishing success, he now commands it at every turn. He keeps everyone at a manageable distance and keeps his assistants and acolytes both demoralized but starving for his approval. A classic narcissist, he believes his own hype. And you better believe it too. This pastor is the toast of many towns. But he will crash and burn eventually.

The Peggy Olsen

Named for one of those Draper acolytes, always under his thumb but desperate for his smile, the Peggy Olsen type of pastor is passive aggressive, envious, secretive, and manipulative, but all from a place of sullen weakness. This pastoral type is in ministry for self-validation, to fill some void that has not been filled by the gospel. The Peggy Olsen is a sweetheart but driven personally by the burden of the Law. This pastor's prime engine runs on equal parts shame and envy.

The Roger Sterling

Named for the silver haired and silver tongued senior partner of "Mad Men"'s ad agency, this is the pastor pathetic in his desire to coast on the fumes of an old success. Roger Sterling landed Lucky Strike as a client once upon a time and parlayed that into some serious bank; he's been in autopilot ever since. He doesn't care much for doing anything now. He just wants to bask in what he's done before. This could be the pastor who wrote a popular book once upon a time or led his church to serious growth once upon a time or steered a massive building campaign once upon a time. And now he's coasting into retirement.

The Pete Campbell

My wife and I have decided that Vincent Kartheiser is a brilliant actor because we absolutely hate Pete Campbell. In my second ministry position I worked alongside a guy who was pretty much exactly like Pete. He was better than me; and he knew it. He reminded me often. He was superficial and smarmy. He stunk of ambition. This is the pastor in ministry not for ministry but to leverage any bit of power or position or prestige he can get out of it. This pastor tweets every day about how awesome he is.

The Bert Cooper

The senior senior partner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce may be the only redeeming pastoral type from the show. He has seen hard-won success but isn't content to coast; he looks to the future. A pragmatist in the best sense of the word, he won't allow his personal feelings to get in the way of doing what's best for the company (as when he okayed the agency's dealings with a Japanese automaker over Roger Sterling's vehemence). The Bert Cooper is a pastor equal parts entrepreneur, folksy father figure, and "Art of War" chess master. He's also flexible, content, and even-keeled.

We need more Bert Coopers, probably.

Thank you for indulging me this throwaway post.


Bill Kinnon said...

Actually, I like this post rather a lot.

ed cyzewski said...

Clever post. A very interesting read. HT to Bill for the Twitter link to here.

Having said that, I'm deeply worried that our pastoral types match up so well... Yikes!

chuckazooloo said...

as a huge fan of the show, that might be one of the best posts i've ever read about archetypes. the sad thing is, i personally know every pastor on that list. and have worked with Roger and Pete.

Pete Scribner said...

I tried watching the show. I really did. It stars John Hamm who currently is the toast of my alma mater (Mizzou-RAH!) and all the cool kids like it. I guess my efforts just confirmed what I already knew: I'm not one of the cool kids.

That being said, I'm tempted to go back and try it out again, watching it through your "Mad Ministers" lens. Frankly, even if I still don't like the show, the fact that it gave me a frame of reference for your post made it well worth the time I spent on it.

Great post, Jared. And indeed, we need more Bert Coopers.