Being critical of popular writer and speaker Jen Hatmaker feels a bit like kicking puppies. If you are unfamiliar with Hatmaker, she is a blogging, self-depreciating, too-much-info sharing pastor’s wife and author of Seven and Interrupted. She manages to be funny and heartfelt all the while sharing her clear desire to see the Gospel impact the world around her. She also has a great collection of oversized earrings that I confess to greatly envy.
Since setting off on my journey to become a published writer, Jen Hatmaker has served as a model for what I would like to achieve; walking that razor-thin line of approachable yet substantive. She is authentic and real but without making excuses or compromising her convictions. Do you sense the giant “but” approaching? Here it comes…
BUT, having enjoyed and been inspired by her writing so much, I was that much more disappointed when I read Hatmaker’s recent blog post regarding World Vision and it’s since reversed decision to allow for the hiring of married gay employees.
It isn’t Hatmaker’s position on gay marriage that disappoints me since her position is unclear. (She has clarified her position in her latest post if you care to know.) What I find so disturbing is her dangerous mischaracterization of the nature of biblical truth and our ability to discern that truth, all in the name of peacemaking.
Hatmaker says “…the Christian community is not going to reach consensus on gay marriage.” I actually disagree with this view since the church has historically been in agreement on this issue for thousands of years. But putting that aside, supposing that we will never agree, in her opinion, mean that we should throw in the towel and just agree to disagree?
What if the early church fathers had taken this approach regarding the biblical canon or heresies that plagued the early church? Should they have simply thrown up their hands and agreed to disagree? Despite her claims that there was a significant lack of agreement among the early church regarding major aspects of the faith, we have hard won creeds and doctrines that have been passed down to us that say differently.
Speaking of the early church fathers, this brings me to my second beef with Hatmaker’s assertions that “we” will never agree. When it comes to the church—and I mean the church beyond 21st century evangelical protestant America—and its view of same-sex marriage, there is actually a larger consensus than she is willing to admit. When one takes into account the whole of the church, through history and across continents, the overwhelming majority comes down on the side of traditional marriage. I find it ironic that too often those who claim to speak for the open-minded crowd neglect the opinions and perspectives of literally billions of believers.
Hatmaker asserts that “Thousands of churches and millions of Christ-followers faithfully read the Scriptures and with thoughtful and academic work come to different conclusions on homosexuality (and countless others). Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been.” This is simply not true. It isn’t true of homosexuality and it isn’t true of any of the major tenets of the Christian faith. If it were, we wouldn’t be a single religion but rather a collection of sects.
Has there been disagreement among certain traditions regarding issues such as baptism, predestination, and more culturally relevant issues such as slavery and the role of women? Absolutely. But there is also a rich history of common ground that as Christians we all enjoy and should fight, yes fight, to defend.
I absolutely agree with Jen Hatmaker that the world needs to see the Church work through these issues with love and respect. I just don’t want to see us sacrifice what is true in the name of let’s-all-just-get-alongitus. For then, if we allow the truth to slip away while we are too busy making nice with one another, what will we have to offer a lost and dying world? What Good News will there be left to tell?
We must wrestle with the truth and with one another not in order to prove we’re right or win points for our side. We must preserve it in order to give it to those who so desperately need it. The truth is there to be discovered and in the end it will set us all free.
I’ll be ruminating for a bit…
Finally! What a breath of fresh air . Thank you for saying exactly what needs to be said Amy. I can’t tell you how hard my mind has been working trying to process so many Christians new ideas of peace, community and love. There is definitely a new wave of apostasy brewing in all denominations. This is just the tip of a very familiar ice berg.
Would you distill your argument down to, “If there is an area of division within a particular branch of the contemporary church, it is important to look into the historical beliefs of the church throughout time and culture to find a common ground that is most likely the *best* approach to that issue, and the one that is closest to God’s original intentions for Christian belief”?
if i were to distill what i am saying it would be close to that but maybe more like this: when there is a division in the church, it is important to look at all those factors (traditions, the approach of other branches; i would also include the cultural context as in “is scripture consistent with, more conservative, or less on this issue than the surrounding culture?”). obviously the historical interpretations of scripture deeply shape our understanding of scripture (what is even considered the Bible is based on historical interpretations of the canon) but scripture must the starting place.
Thanks for the elaboration!
I think there’s more to be said here. (I’m primarily adding a point I think is relevant, not arguing against what you have said.) A lot of conservative responses to sexuality are missing what to me seems a major reason why people’s beliefs are shifting. There are huge pastoral issues at stake. Suicidal depression, for example, is far more common than it should be among gay or same-sex attracted Christians trying to live by a traditional sexual ethic. For people who don’t find themselves attracted to the opposite sex, living faithfully by this teaching often means lifelong celibacy. The mere prospect of that is seen as crushing by many people, and seems contrary to any sort of “abundant life.”
A lot of the shifting of beliefs I see seems to be a result of people’s belief that these problems are unsolvable under a traditional sexual ethic. Many people also believe that the traditional ethic is at least partially responsible for much of the mistreatment and marginalization that many LGBT people do indeed face. And merely talking about the interpretation of Scripture as it relates to sexual ethics, even if we’re coming to correct conclusions, is insufficient to address all these surrounding issues. And if we act as though all the shifting is due to some vague notion of “political correctness” or “let’s just all get along,” we’re not addressing some of the most important realities.
I think a lot of Christians are simply unaware of many of these realities. It has only been in the last few years I have become significantly aware of them, as I’ve connected with a bunch of other LGB/same-sex attracted Christians trying to live faithful to traditional teaching. There are a bunch of difficult issues to work through, particularly for those who (like me) continue to hold to the traditional teaching on sexual ethics. I think that as more of us open up about our experiences within our Christian communities, we can start to address things and to make it more obvious that we’re talking about people’s lives. There is a wealth of wisdom in Scripture and church teaching that we ought to apply, but it’s often not applied well in practice. The fallout contributes to the shifting in beliefs about sexual ethics. I think we can learn to do better with God’s help.
Jen Hatmaker did a good job making a similar point in the follow-up post you also linked. We need to make sure we are acting out of love for others, and there are many ways that we (and I definitely include myself here) have failed to do so. I believe that as Christians we are called to do better, and I’ve seen a lot of positive things happen in Christian communities I’m invested in. There’s more to it than simply getting Scripture right when it comes to particular ethical questions, and I think we need to keep a broader focus in mind as we think through things.
Just had to say right quick: “Being critical of popular writer and speaker Jen Hatmaker feels a bit like kicking puppies.” Nice.
Very nice post, Amy.
On Hatmaker: when I hear more “the world is watching” concern, VS less “we need to hold up the Word as Truth to the world”… that sends up a major red flag in a teacher. Our Heavenly Father is watching, too. And His Word tells us not to expect to be popular; more like despised. But we press on in love. We shouldn’t try to incessantly tinker with God’s Word to bend more to the world’s view in the sake of peacemaking. That is trying to give Jesus a makeover and it’s not going to fly.
I have a question I always self-check myself with that would work well here: “Am I pointing this person to Christ? or myself?” Because one of those “loves” being exhibited is very different than the other. One is loving them in Spirit through God’s Truth, and one is loving/accepting them in our flesh (and craving to be loved/accepted in return). That last one is a very different beast.
There is no like button. I need a like for TB’s comment. There is so much concern that “the world is watching” and relatively little effort to be salt and light. We prefer to huddle in shrinking enclaves or go with the cultural flow. Those are easier, in the short run.