If you’ve been in the Christian world for a while and haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard all about Jen Hatmaker. I “met” Jen years ago through their adoption story and have been following her ever since on social media. I have not personally read any of her books, but I’ve heard them come highly recommended by several others. Jen is, (at least on social media) witty and charming, relatable, gracious, and let’s not forget- outrageously funny. If you’ve followed her for any length of time, any number of her status updates will probably have you laughing out loud. Most of us would love to be able to meet up with Jen in her hometown in Texas over a cup of coffee and have a chance to get to know her in real life. We think we pretty much know her already, and are certain that if she just knew us, we could be instant BFF’s.
Part of Jen’s appeal, in addition to the aforementioned character traits, is that much like Joanna Gains, she is a Christian woman, with a healthy and happy marriage, a healthy and happy family, and runs a successful business outside of her home. Her business includes a vibrant social media presence, authorship of a few books, various media interviews and high profile speaking and teaching opportunities. Not to mention the HGTV show where the crew renovated a home for the Hatmakers.
Jen has become a model of Christian womanhood for many of us. It is Titus 2 for the digital and social media age, and whether you or I desire such a platform or not, we all long to make our marks on the world in one way or another. Jen has modeled for us one such possibility of influencing the world around us, and most of us could agree that, at least in some small way, we are better for Jen’s influence, even if all it has meant to us is a funny, relatable post on a day we needed it.
In a recent interview, Jen shared that their theology on same-sex marriage has shifted from believing that same sex-marriage is sinful, to now believing that a same-sex marriage can be holy in the sight of God. All hell has broken loose over this in the Christian community. Hundreds of articles have been written with rebuttals of the Hatmaker’s newfound theology, why it’s wrong, what will now happen to their platform. Jen’s books are being taken off of shelves in some bookstores, angry Christians are renouncing Jen and Brandon and everything they’ve ever said. All around the world, Christians are in full blown ‘throw-the-Hatmaker’s-under-the-bus’ mode.
Jen issued a statement saying that she is holding all of this with an open hand and her main motivation is to love the lost and heal the broken. Brandon wrote a post about what their process has been in coming to this theological conclusion. He gives a high-level view of the research and study they’ve put in, the books they’ve read, their heart motivations and the conclusions they’ve reached. To me, what they have said about the amount of study, research and prayer that they have done over this single issue is more than 99% of Christians will do on any subject, ever. Myself included. It sounds like both Brandon and Jen desire to be faithful to scripture, and to be loving and gracious to a community who has experienced an unfathomable amount of pain and suffering at the hands of “Christians” for generations. And yet the backlash over this from fellow Christians- brothers and sisters- has been immense.
I am not going to speak to the theology of this issue, or confirm or deny the conclusions that the Hatmakers have come to. I have not personally done the heavy lifting required to do any more than quote the verses everyone else is quoting, or repeat what I have been taught all my life. Plus, that is not where my heart was in writing this post.
During this horrendous 2016 election cycle, I have watched the Christian community splinter, fracture and then shatter into pieces. I suppose it’s possible that this is the way the Christian community always has been… maybe that’s why churches split and new denominations are formed… maybe it’s just the season of life I have found myself in, but it seems to me as though there is something especially sinister about the current Christian climate. Satan is having his way and we are being consumed from the inside out. We are being consumed by pride and by arrogance. Pride, arrogance and thirst for power mean that the weaker among us are marginalized and exploited- used for our own means. This is the opposite of everything that Jesus stood for.
A big, black thundercloud is rolling in. The wind is rising and thunder and lightening are in the clouds. I feel the rumbling, I see the darkness and I wait for the coming storms. Bring the thunder, bring the lightening, bring the rain and bring the floods. Let the rivers flow and wash us clean. (a picture/vision I got in my head as I was writing this on 11/2/16)
Here’s the thing. Right or wrong, agree or disagree with the Hatmaker’s conclusion on same-sex marriage, there is a subtle but distinct line between disagreeing with a person and dismissing them. To disagree with someone means that you’ve taken the time to listen, to understand, to respect the person and their thought process, and then (hopefully respectfully) offer a different conclusion. But to dismiss someone means that you’ve made a judgement in your head that they’re wrong, and it doesn’t matter to you how they got there or why. You don’t seek to understand or to listen, you might stay around long enough to listen, but only to defend your positions and judgements. When you do this, you disregard the person because at this point, their unique life experiences, point of view, or process of thought don’t matter to you. Only the conclusion matters, and you’ve decided they’re wrong. Therefore, to you, the person is wrong. From here, the person is often discredited by going backwards in time and dismissing everything they’ve said in the past as well.
For full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of this at times. I’ve also had this done to me. Many times. It is one of the most painful experiences. When I speak or share an opinion, it’s typically done only after a lot of careful thought and weighing of personal life experience. I am uniquely wired to read the energy in a room and to read between the lines in a conversation. All of these things subconsciously influence how I think and perceive, although I’m not always able to verbalize them. I am carefully guarded with my opinions as they are intricately tied to the person that I am. I do not have a flippant bone in my body, and I do not share lightly.
Not everyone is that way, of course. Some people are flippant. Some people say things before they determine if that was a good or a bad thing to say. Some people process verbally. While many people may not take this situation as personally as I do, I can guarantee that no one appreciates being dismissed. We need to learn the difference between disagreeing and dismissing and intentionally choose to do the former and not the latter. Disagreeing with one another is a good thing. There is supposed to be diversity in the body of Christ. We need to share our experiences, listen to one another, and offer different opinions and conclusions. THAT IS HOW WE GROW. That is how we mature. That is the act of iron sharpening iron.
When we dismiss one another, we do not grow. We do not mature. We hide behind our own pride and arrogance that tells us that we are right and they are wrong. It does not challenge us to consider thoughts, ideas or experiences that are not our own. And that is a very dangerous place to live.
The Hatmaker’s have done a lot of things right. They are leading with love and with grace, and after all grace builds the platform in which truth can be spoken. They are studying, they are praying, they are talking with others who have different opinions, they are doing the work of growing and maturing under the authority of the Holy Spirit. Your conclusions might be different than theirs, and that’s okay. But disagree, do not dismiss. Instead, let this example challenge us to do our own study. Let’s dig into the Bible on our own and do our own research. Let this encourage us to burrow deeper into scripture and grow our own relationship with Jesus. If this is the only thing that comes out of this controversy, then so be it. I think the Hatmaker’s would be satisfied with that result.