If you hang in Christian circles and have been able to wade through the latest email-scandal-that-wasn’t in these last few days before the election, you may be aware of the scandalous news that Jen Hatmaker, beloved Bible teacher-slash-church planter, came out in support of (among other things) gay marriage, and the capital-E Evangelicals imploded.
I don’t know Jen Hatmaker personally, but when I was in Jordan a few weeks ago, I was hanging out with some people who do, and it was their Facebook feeds that first alerted me to the fray. I wasn’t going to jump in and add to the internet fire — when you’ve got people like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey on your side, you don’t need a tiny little blogger like me to come alongside and hold you up.
Except maybe you do.
As I was perusing Facebook last night while watching television (a good reason to order Jen’s book called 7), I came across an interview with the oft-quoted-by-my-pastor theological big shot Tony Campolo, who practically parted the Red Sea a while back when he came out in support of same sex marriage. In it, he said, “But I do have to say it’s been painful for me to step back and make this statement, because I’ve lost my community, I feel alone. I feel stranded out there.”
If the likes of Tony Campolo can feel abandoned by his tribe of Christians, then I’m guessing Jen is feeling the same way, even with the love of her BFFs.
I traveled to Jordan on a press tour with a large group of writers that was split up into smaller groups; there were the Catholics, the Episcopalians, etc. Then there was us — the Progressives. The back of the bus gang, the snarky rebels who have been called into offices, kicked out of churches, spiritually abused in one form or another.
More than once, one of our fellow travelers came up to us and asked, not unkindly or in so many words, “So what the heck is a Progressive Christian, anyway?”
We’d look at each other, shrug, and say, “I dunno.”
But then, of course, we’d keep going. “I’d say we’re marked by discontent with the status quo,” I said once, looking at one of my new friends for help.
“Disenfranchised,” my friend finished for me. Then we started listing some markers: LGBTQI affirming. Oriented toward social justice. Radical about following Jesus and loving people, not so radical about casting judgement or shunning others. So when I read Tony’s words, when I found out that he was lonely, and I remembered those moments in Jordan, and I thought about Jen, I realized that for as small as my voice may be, it’s still a voice.
In this time when LifeWay has pulled Jen’s materials out of its lineup, maybe my voice matters.
Because some asshat with no college degree, Bible or otherwise, condescendingly implies that Jen, who is trained in Biblical studies, came to her conclusion based solely on feelings (you know, because us women are incapable of using our brains to make decisions), maybe its important that even I add my voice to the choir singing Jen’s praises for her bravery.
I add my voice to this chamber choir because I know what it’s like, albeit on a smaller scale. Back in 2011, I wrote a pretty public blog post on NJ.com in support of same-sex marriage. It felt scary and dangerous to finally put my thoughts out into the world, because I knew I was (and still am) immersed in an Evangelical world. It didn’t take long before I was called into offices, reprimanded, silenced. Because of my “leadership” position, I should not “engage in controversial conversations online.”
Worst of all was knowing that someone — and their identity was kept from me — had turned me in, because the authorities in my life at the time surely didn’t read NJ.com. So it turned into this uncomfortable feeling that I was being spied on, in a way, even though I’d put it out there for all to see. This bothered me because look — I’m from Jersey. We deal straight up in Jersey. You got a problem with my views? Come talk to me. Let’s have coffee. Don’t run to my boss-daddy and turn my ass in. Zero respect, whoever you are.
Anyway, part of me didn’t want to know who it was, because I was afraid they were someone I considered a friend. So it’s probably better off that I don’t know.
My desire to respect the people I cared about (even though I disagreed whole-heartedly), a lack of confidence in my own blossoming knowledge of theology, and — let’s face it — a need to keep my paycheck kept me quiet for some time. Until none of that mattered more than stepping up as the warrior-girl I believe God has called me to be. I can’t help it — I’m an under-dog-sticker-upper-for, and always have been. This is how Jesus works out his crazy Jesus love in my life and through it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And trust me when I tell you (asshats may want to listen up here) — it’s not just because I feel like it. People way smarter and better educated than me are coming to the same conclusions, and I actually know how to read their work and process it with my very own logical brain. And because of what I learned, I believe supporting LGBTQI people is not only just and right, but a responsibility to God.
I know a young man who came out as gay to his pastor. He was promptly removed from the worship team, because God forbid a gay man should lead worship. A few weeks later, I saw a video of him singing his heart out as he led worship at a new church, and all I could think of was this: God forgive us if we ever try to keep a person from praising God.
So I’m officially throwing my hat in Jen’s ring, supporting her from my tiny little platform way over here. I’m loving her from here, I’m encouraging her from here. I’m saying, “You go, girl,” from here. You go.
That day way back when, when I got called into offices and reprimands were heaped on my head — that was the first day I self-identified as a Progressive Christian. The Authority in Question — who I will say I still love dearly, though we disagree — said, “Yes, but the question there is progressing toward what?”
I thought about that long and hard, and I’ve come to a conclusion.
Toward love, my friends. Toward love.