We have a saying at Mama Bear: demolish the argument, not the person. For the most part, we try to leave names out of the equation and just focus on the statements or claims being made. However, occasionally there arises such a brouhaha with a public figure that it is impossible to separate the name from the issue. As Mama Bears, we are called to demolish ideas, but NEVER people. Click To Tweet
Jen Hatmaker is one of those lightning rod people. Even if we tried to speak of her anonymously, most people would know who we were talking about. And since she is so publicly making her claims, it is appropriate (and necessary) for us to publicly discuss them. For those of you who have been living under a rock (or have been so caught up in all of 2017 Trump drama), Jen Hatmaker is a former Evangelical darling who went through a very public (and very painful) process of rejecting the traditional Biblical teaching on gender and marriage. It was not without cost. The internet is brutal and people feel brazen and empowered by the cloak of online anonymity. We have no doubt that 2017 was a very painful year for her. A few months after Jen and her husband formally broke from their traditional views on marriage she posted a sad, good-Friday blog, essentially revealing how hurt she was from the reaction of the Christian community. It is well written, and definitely tugs at the heartstrings. She is still a human being, made in God’s image, and it pains me to see anyone suffer the way she has. However, it was obvious that she saw herself as partaking in the sufferings of Christ, and that was troublesome to me. While I have no doubt that mean-spirited people in the Evangelical community probably did indeed rip her to shreds, it wasn’t because of her stance on holiness. She wasn’t being persecuted by the world for proclaiming the good news. She was being persecuted by Christians for teaching “what itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3) I have no doubt that mean-spirited people in the Evangelical community did indeed rip her to shreds, but I don't think it was for her stance on holiness. Click To Tweet
Since then, Hatmaker and her husband have found a new, welcoming community. Though she has been silent for quite some time, she is now re-emerging from the ashes and starting to make the rounds, proclaiming the good news of life after. . . I’m not sure what. I’d like to say “life after scripture,” but she claims to hold scripture with just as high a regard as before. When Alisa alerted me to an interview with Pete Enns that was circulating on Facebook, we knew we had to respond. Here were my main takeaways from the interview: (You can listen to the full Enns-Hatmaker interview here, but read this post first.)
1) She made very few claims
In fact, so few were the claims, that I was listening and thinking, “What is Alisa so upset about? She hasn’t made any claims that I really disagree with yet.” But then I thought more and realized, “Wait. . . She hasn’t made any claims. In fact, she has used such generalized language, that I’m not even sure what her point is.” It was at that moment that I realized that something was amiss. After covering the women’s march last year in a blog and a podcast, I am very wary when a controversial issue arises and I can’t locate an actual claim. This should always be a clue that the actual claim is being masked. Or I’m being groomed so that when the person makes the controversial claim, I have been lulled into a sense of safety and it slips in without me noticing. Such was the case with this podcast. Somewhere around the 30 minute mark, the interview took a turn and they finally started saying things that I disagreed with in no small part. It is always fair to feel skeptical when someone has been talking for half an hour, and hasn't made a single, verifiable claim. Click To Tweet
2) She used very generalized language with no specifics
I had to put the podcast on pause a few times to think about what she was saying. I realized that I was taking everything she said as a given, but had been provided with no details. Why was she not giving any specifics? This is a tactic that people use, whether consciously or unconsciously, to build rapport with the listener. When a person is vague on the details of the situation, it allows the listener to fill in the details with their own experiences. While Jen said that people were mean to her, she never said how. I can fill in instances from my own life where people were mean to me and then empathize with her. However, I have been around people who have accused others of “meanness,” but when I looked into the situation, all that had happened was that the person had disagreed with them, and not in a mean way. However, nobody will get sympathy points for claiming that everyone disagreed with them.
3) Once an empathetic rapport has been established with the audience, the real message emerges
When the real message started to emerge, I went into full Mama Bear mode, scribbling notes to address in the podcast. I had been lulled into a sense of, “Poor thing. She has been so hurt. Christians really can be mean.” (ahem… they really can…) But then she and the hosts started saying things about how “our ancient faith, rooted in an ancient text has developed and changed over the last two millennia.” Wait. . . what?!?! I thought the Word of the Lord stood forever?!? (Isaiah 40:8) Then Hatmaker goes on to describe the difference between the “fruit” of the “non-affirming churches” and the “affirming churches.” It sounds reasonable. . . until you look at what scripture has to say about fruit. Hatmaker also made claims like “there has never been unanimity on anything, ever in the church.” To which I have to ask, “What was the purpose of the creeds then?” There is so much packed into the last 15 minutes of this podcast, I finished with a generalized feeling of yuck. After feeling sorry for her pain for half an hour, she suddenly revealed her cards, agreeing that scripture has changed over time, Christians have never agreed on anything, and that 'fruit' had nothing to do with repentance. Click To Tweet
There is an incredible blog post response by Michael Kruger titled “The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible.” I encourage EVERYONE to read it. Having watched countless interactions between my husband and skeptics, I too have noticed a formula developing in the way deconversion stories are presented. Kruger breaks it down into five easy to recognize steps, and the interview between Enns and Hatmaker follows them to a tee. And while Jen Hatmaker does not claim to have deconverted from Christianity, there is a case to be made that she has at least deconverted from Orthodoxy.While @JenHatmaker does not claim to have deconverted from Christianity, there is a case to be made that she has at least deconverted from Orthodoxy. Click To Tweet
We are called by God to be compassionate to the oppressed and outcast, and gracious to our brothers and sisters. This becomes a very difficult position when we are also called to identify false teachers and recognize when a different message is being preached. What do we do when we identify a false message and the teacher is presenting herself as a true sister, fighting for the misfit outcasts? That’s where we have to exercise some serious discernment, check our own hearts, and by the grace of God, proceed. It is a very narrow road to walk, but I hope Alisa and I did it with grace, tact, and love. (Go up to the top or to iTunes to listen to the Mama Bear podcast.) What are your thoughts?We're called to be compassionate to the oppressed, patient with our brothers and sisters, but we're also called to identify false teaching. What do we do when a sister is claiming oppression due to her false teaching? #discernment Click To Tweet We are not ARGUED into change, we are STORIED into change. Always use discernment when listening to personal stories. Emotions can change. Truth will not. Click To Tweet
People and Resources mentioned
- Alisa’s Story Ehhhh… What the heck. I’ll just embed it here:</li>
- Pete Enns – former professor at Westminster Seminary who has rejected orthodox Christianity. Author of The Bible Tells me So: Why Defending Scripture has Made us Unable to Read It
- Jen Hatmaker – former conservative evangelical who has moved to a more progressive Christianity
- Brett Kunkle
- The Jen Hatmaker post where everything blew up
- Sarah Bessey article on leaving Evangelicalism
- Rachel Held Evens – Progressive Christian author and blogger, former evangelical. Vocal supporter of LGBT inclusion and feminism, though she is also vocal about pro-life issues.
- John Pavlovitch – Author, blogger, speaker, very vocal critic of evangelicalism (most specifically “white evangelicalism.”) Tends to jump on whatever liberal bandwagon is the most current.
- #emptythepews hashtag
- Rob Bell – former “emergent” church leader who wrote the book Love Wins which claims that people will get a second chance to receive Christ after they die, and in this way, everyone will be in heaven.
- Brian McLaren – Considered one of the most prominent voices in Progressive Christianity. He rejects the Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration narrative that Christians have affirmed for 2,000 years in favor of a “better story,” which involves reading the Bible in a whole new way, a way which involves reading the Bible as a collection of stories that reflect our ancestors “best attempts to understand God in their own times and cultures.” Claims that we have evolved as a church, have a “higher and wiser” view of God, so we can correct/change doctrines that the church has always affirmed.
- Michael Kruger – author of the article “The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible.” Also has a variety of articles on Biblical textual criticism (which refutes the secular critical scholarship)
- Mama Bear Apologetics podcast on Why Does the God of the Old Testament Seem So Different from the God of the New Testament
- J Gresham Machan book Christianity and Liberalism
- Acts 17:11 – showed that the Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians for asking the tough questions, and searching the scriptures to make sure that what Paul said was true. We don’t need anyone else to give us permission to ask tough questions about the Bible. The Bible not only gives us permission but encourages it as seen in this next verse. . .
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – encouragement to not take things on someone else’s authority, but to seek them out in scripture, and hold fast to the things that show to be good.
- Hillary’s Diagnosing Doubt talk, where she recognizes that a hyper-fundamentalist, legalist background predisposes people to doubt.
- Lay level books mentioned in Brandon Hatmaker’s post on why he and Jen switched their theology about same-sex marriage:
- Dr. Michael Brown‘s book Can You Be Gay and Christian: Responding with Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality
- People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle
- Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son by Brad and Drew Harper
- Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics by David Gushee
- The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage by Mark Achtemeier
- UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin
- Scholarly level authors that should have been mentioned that weren’t
- Sanhedron – The Jewish ruling body back in the 1st century (and before)
- Remnant – Biblical theme referring to the people who have remained faithful to God. There are plenty who claim God’s Lordship over themselves, but we know that they are not all true worshipers as per Matthew 7:22-23
- Revisionist – Someone who seeks to change a fundamental doctrine, theology, or historicity of an event
- Pederasty – Sex between a man and a boy
- Anawim – Hebrew word which referred to the “poor and lowly ones”. Literally “poor, afflicted, humble, meek.”
“The poverty of affluence: Being so accustomed to purchasing comfort, that we have no category for suffering.” – Scott Sauls
Hillary Morgan Ferrer is the founder of Mama Bear Apologetics. She is coauthor and editor of the Mama Bear Apologetics book, and has been married to her husband, Dr. John D. Ferrer, for over 12 years. She is working on her second master’s degree, and yet can’t seem to figure out the simplest cooking recipes.