In Defense of Jen Hatmaker

If you're a Jen Hatmaker fan, you've likely read (or read about) the interview she did with Religion News Service. Maybe you've even stumbled upon a response to it from super-conservative writers like Matt Walsh. You might know that my girl, Jen, has been ripped to shreds by many Christians. I certainly have some questions for Hatmaker, but I'm not saddened by her response like so many others are. Actually, I'm more saddened by the way Christians have reacted to her interview.

People are up in arms and seem ready to throw Jen Hatmaker under the proverbial bus for a few of her answers to incredibly tough questions (particularly on the issue of LGBT relationships; it's worth mentioning that these are tough questions because they deal with people, and believers are called to love people). I think what so many have forgotten is that we are a fallen people. Christians and non-Christians alike tend to place mainstream Christian figures (and church leaders) on a pedestal and expect them to be Jesus. While we can and should certainly try to be Jesus, we'll fail EVERY TIME because we aren't Jesus. He was without sin, and we are not.

Many folks are upset about this portion of Jen's interview:
Politically speaking, do you support gay marriage?
From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends. 
From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. 
Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.
Call me crazy, but I feel like she was spot-on in this section. Our culture has embraced gay marriage despite it being antithetical to scripture. As my friend Bob always says, "That ship has done left the harbor." (I know that just because culture says it's acceptable doesn't change what God says; more on that later.) Hatmaker clearly says, "From a civil rights and civil liberties side..." before she mentions that gay couples should be "afforded the same legal protections as any of us." Marriage equality is the law of the land now, and Evangelical believers can scream their disdain until their throats are raw, but what does it really do? I maintain that it causes more division. Can Evangelical believers still hold firm to scripture? Absolutely. Can they do this while also loving their gay friends? 100% yes. Will it be comfortable? No. Will it align with our perfect, shiny idea of church? No. But...the church is not a place for perfect people.We aren't required to clean ourselves up and "get right with God" before we attend church. The church is a place for broken people; it has been since the inception of the New Testament church. Infidelity is antithetical to scripture, but folks who struggle with this can find a place in the church. Alcoholism is antithetical to scripture, but folks who struggle with this can find a place in the church. Pride is antithetical to scripture, but folks who struggle with this can find a place in the church. Similarly, gay couples should also be able to find a place in Evangelical churches. This doesn't mean we need to change our theology; it simply means that we need to find ways to build bridges where there are none or to repair the broken ones. It will be messy work; bridge-building always is. 

 Maybe at this point your blood pressure is high...hopefully this pretty picture of a bridge will help calm you down. 

The one response that seems to be uniting folks to take up arms against Jen Hatmaker is her comment that gay marriage can be holy:
You mention faithfulness and God. Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?
I do. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.
LGBT relationships are certainly antithetical to scripture; I do know the Bible is clear on this. What I don't know, though, is what Jen meant when she mentioned that homosexual relationships can be holy. Just like she mentioned that the question is a "nuanced conversation," her answer is nuanced, too. I wish I could sit down with her, eat tacos, and talk with her about this. Her answer doesn't sit well with me, but I'm not in the business of casting stones against people who don't have the same beliefs as me. I surround myself with people who have a variety of beliefs because I don't place a person's value on their belief systems. Likewise, when we surround ourselves with only people who think and talk and act and look like us, then we create a dangerous echo chamber. So, will I unfollow Jen Hatmaker and purge my shelves of her books? No, I will not. No matter what her belief is about the holiness of LBGT relationships, she has challenged me to think about other Biblical ideas.

I know it's not the trend lately, but we have a responsibility as humans to think critically. Just because one person says something, doesn't mean that person speaks for an entire population of people--no matter how many books she sells. Jen Hatmaker may be a popular face and voice in the Christian world, but she is not THE face of Christianity or the church. Before we make it a habit of lambasting her for a comment or shift in beliefs, perhaps we can consider all the times that we (as proclaimed believers of God) have messed up and misrepresented God.

1 comment:

Huskerbabe said...

I have to admit after reading a couple of her books I liked her less and less. Nothing to do with her theology but she just doesn't click with me, so to speak. I think sitting at a table with her and her friends would make me feel like the odd one out. Just like high school. ;)
But I worry at the venomous response by so called Christians. We "christians" can be a rather cannibalistic breed.
Do I agree with her on this? No. But I also realize that as a church we have failed the LGBT community also. I don't profess to have the answers but I pray that God gives me the heart to look for them.
Thanks for your post.