Best-selling author Jen Hatmaker is a popular figure on the Christian conference circuit and women’s Bible study reading lists, especially following her family’s well-received HGTV fixer-upper show airing last year. Hatmaker has written and said a number of thoughtful, challenging things that placed her products closer to Beth Moore on the Christian Living bookshelves rather than the anything-goes religious lefties. Even so, there were red flags.
While ladies on my social media feed yesterday expressed their surprise at Hatmaker’s candid interview with Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt, I was more disappointed than shocked. If you missed yesterday’s interview, Hatmaker shared her views on same-sex marriage, the pro-life movement, Black Lives Matter, and the 2016 Election.
It’s not Jen Hatmaker’s politics that bothered me. On this utterly bizarre election, she and I agree on many points.
On reading her thoughts on the pro-life movement, I just rolled my eyes at the strawman she creates while saying, “There’s something incredibly disingenuous about a Christian community that screams about abortion, but then refuses to support the very programs that are going to stabilize vulnerable, economically fragile families that decide to keep their kids.” Right. It’s only religious lefties who believe this talking point and I’m probably not going to change their minds. Because if you actually get involved in the pro-life movement, which is young and vibrant, you see the same people marching beside you at the annual March for Life are the same people volunteering in non-profit pregnancy centers, opening their homes to foster children, or quietly offering financial support to the single moms in their churches.
So moving on to, what I’d say, is the most disappointing portion of the interview. When asked by Jonathan Merritt if an LGBT relationship can be holy, Hatmaker answered:
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.
As I read Hatmaker’s responses—which seems largely based on feelings rather than historic Christian teaching on sexual ethics—my thoughts immediately went to the thousands of young Christian women who devour her books, placing their trust in her instructions for living out a holy life. Young Christian women who are bombarded with pressure from coworkers, professors, and friends to accept marriage is malleable, now listen as their favorite Christian author and mentor says the same. And what of Christian women (and men) who own bakeries and flower shops wrestling with their conscience over catering a same-sex wedding? How deflating or confusing to read Hatmaker’s views that marriage can be redefined and the Church must submit.
I suspect Hatmaker believes her progressive views on same-sex marriage are hinged on compassion and not the tiresome revisionist talking points from some of the Mainline denominations. It’s the same old story, really. Christians with enormous influence for the kingdom start to revise traditional Christian teaching in hopes of a broader appeal.
We know how that story ends. A congregation of hundreds dwindles down to thirty. This story teaches us a lesson that Hatmaker would be wise to recognize. That is, people ultimately want transformative truth, not a feel-good gospel.