Jen Hatmaker, Blurry Lines, and Transformative Truth

Jen Hatmaker, Blurry Lines, and Transformative Truth April 26, 2016

Jen Hatmaker is the new Beth Moore in many Christian ladies’ circles. She is a popular mommy blogger, Evangelical conference speaker, the author of 7, For the Love, and many more devotions and Bible studies. Hatmaker and her husband Brandon, an Austin-based pastor, even starred in their own fixer-upper HGTV show last autumn.

But it’s not her blog, books nor TV show that have religion commentators a buzz this week. It’s her Facebook page and a so-called “shift” in LGBTQ affirmation that has Evangelicals talking about her.

On Saturday, April 23, Hatmaker wrote on her Facebook page:

One things I said was that it is high time Christians opened wide their arms, wide their churches, wide their tables, wide their homes to the LGBT community. So great has our condemnation and exclusion been, that gay Christian teens are SEVEN TIMES more likely to commit suicide.

Nope. No. No ma’am. Not on my watch. No more. This is so far outside the gospel of Jesus that I don’t even recognize its reflection. I can’t. I won’t. I refuse.

I agree with Hatmaker that Christians should be loving and welcoming. But that’s not the end. She continues:

So whatever the cost and loss, this is where I am: gay teens? Gay adults? Mamas and daddies of precious gaybees? Friends and beloved neighbors of very dear LGBT folks?

Here are my arms open wide. So wide that every last one of you can jump inside. You are so dear, so beloved, so precious and important. You matter so desperately and your life is worthy and beautiful. There is nothing “wrong with you,” or in any case, nothing more right or wrong than any of us, which is to say we are all hopelessly screwed up but Jesus still loves us beyond all reason and lives to make us all new, restored, whole. Yay for Jesus!

“The end.,” she concludes a little later in the post. These sentiments are not surprising. Hatmaker has made far more controversial comments on Christian sexual ethics before. While Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt believes Hatmaker’s post reflects a shift on LGBTQ inclusion, he also notes in a recent column that she’s made similar statements on the subject in the past. Merritt points out Hatmaker’s 2014 controversial blog response to World Vision’s reversal of its initial decision to accept same-sex marriage among its employees. In her retort to World Vision’s reversal, Hatmaker claimed:

Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been. Historically, Christian theology has always been contextually bound and often inconsistent with itself; an inconvenient truth we prefer to selectively explain.

Fierce love and a call for unhindered welcomes for all into the body of Christ are to be applauded and, more importantly, emulated. The problem here is that some of Hatmaker’s sentiments seem to walk that squishy, blurry line between embracing grace and rejecting Christian moral ethics.

It’s tiring (not to mention saddening) to watch Christian leaders tell individuals that you’re born who you are, how you are, and that’s okay. Nothing is wrong with you. Essentially saying, everyone is born inherently good. But that’s a dangerously deceptive attitude. What good then is the Good News if everyone is born good and hunky-dory? What’s the point of Jesus’ suffering and dying on the cross?  Christ died not only because of how much he loves us, but also to pay the price of our sin and conquer our broken humanity.

Hatmaker notes that all of us are “hopelessly screwed up,” but she doesn’t mention the need for repentance of sin. If, instead, Hatmaker’s post read, “Here are my arms open wide. Jump in so I can walk with you in love and accountability through the difficulty we all face denying sin. It will be tough to break intimate bonds with your partner, live single and celibate, but I’m here to provide you community and comfort,” then I can promise you the jubilant responses to her post, would have been phrased very differently.

But this is where many in the Church seem to be lazing about these days. It’s far easier, appealing, and popular to simply affirm sin as an identity or lifestyle choice instead of calling on our neighbors to repent of sin. There’s another way. It’s possible to show love and also speak of transformative truth. It just isn’t easy.

Thank God these were not the sentiments of the local Christian leaders who walked by my mom and dad when they were new Christians. Seeking the Church’s help after my father’s infidelity, my dad longed for Christians to love him, yes. But he also thanks God to this day for his fellow Christians who boldly told him the truth about the penalties of sin, sexual ethics, Christ’s expectations for us to live like Him, and for their love and loyal accountability through it all. As the child whose dad accepted Christ’s night-and-day transformation from a sinner to a saint, I’m grateful too.

“Lax theology is not the answer. Transformative truth is,” writes  my Institute on Religion and Democracy colleague. These words ring true and personal for me and my redeemed family. So very true.

In wading through this tough discussion, I’m reminded of a Scripture verse I’d like to leave with you:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, ESV)

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