Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Need For Discernment Has Never Been Greater, Jen Hatmaker Edition

Being discerning has always been a critical aspect of the Christian life of a disciple. We have warnings to that effect all throughout the New Testament but it today's world the need is as urgent as it has ever been. Case in point, a recent interview with Jen Hatmaker who is a fairly famous religious author. I haven't read any of her stuff, probably not too shocking a revelation, but I did see an interview with her linked by Tim Challies. Published by Religion News Service the interview is a trainwreck. I am sure others have already responded but given how famous she is and how many unsuspecting Christians read her books uncritically, I think it is important to point out the many fallacies and outright errors she manages to pack into a brief interview. Here are some of the more egregious examples:

Who do you plan to vote for? 

My initial thought is vote for whoever is not Donald Trump and can win. It’s interesting, though, to watch Evan McMullin rise up right now as a conservative candidate, and I’m paying attention to that. I like him. I think he’s got a lot of integrity, and I like his policies. 

What about Hillary? Would you be open to voting for her? 


Ok. How can someone say in the same breath that they like Evan McMullin as a conservative candidate with integrity and you like his policies and then turn around and say you would be open to voting for Hillary Clinton, someone who embodies the very antithesis of integrity in every aspect of her public life and who espouses policies that are the polar opposite of McMullin? Either she has no idea what she is talking about or....well scratch that, having no idea what she is talking about is the only answer. Until we get to the next question:

But Hillary has her share of problems too, right? 

That to me is where the Christian family is struggling right now, because in terms of character assassination, both of our candidates have some dirt. It has become a matter of which is worse, and it’s a terrible predicament.

That is an evasion worthy of a Clinton. It isn't "character assassination" to point out the myriad well documented examples of unethical and criminal behavior by Mrs. Clinton. I am assuming that Ms. Hatmaker knows the specifics of Mrs. Clinton's "share of problems" but on the other hand someone who is intrigued by Evan McMullin but open to voting for Hillary is clearly not well versed on the issues (which she ironically accuses Donald Trump of also being). Now we get to the biggies.

Politically speaking, do you support gay marriage? 

From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends. 

From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. 

Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.

So the first paragraph, which answers the actual question she was posed, is kind of silly but not heretical.

The second paragraph is puzzling. Ms. Hatmaker may be unaware of this but something being legal in all 50 states (by virtue of a judicial fiat by the way) doesn't make it OK. The church should be prepared by all means to minister to homosexuals but to minister to them with the Gospel that saves from sin, not affirmation that encourages it.

The third paragraph is the worst of the trio. Someone who embraces and celebrates their sin is by definition not born-again and therefore not a Christian and further not a brother or sister in Christ or part of the family of God. There are people who are struggling with same sex behavior and we should help them as sinners saved by grace but never, ever by denying the reality of sin and the need to repent and turn from that sin. Lest you think this is an aberration, she doubles down on her error:

You mention faithfulness and God. Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy? 

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.

My views here are tender? What does that even mean other than being wishy washy and patting yourself on the back? It really isn't that nuanced of a conversation. Scripture is as clear on the unacceptability and inherent sinfulness of homosexual behavior as it is on any topic. There is no ambiguity or nuance. Homosexual behavior is condemned without qualification or exception. What Ms. Hatmaker is doing is not tender or nuanced or loving. It is being either willfully ignorant of Scripture or more likely she knows what Scripture says and is determined to deny it in favor of capitulating to the culture. There is nothing new or courageous here, it is just the same false teaching that has infected religious America for the last several years.

I agree that every believer should be prepared to do some hard work when it comes to homosexual behavior but blowing along with the winds of the culture isn't hard work. Standing firm in love for the truth even when it costs you public affirmation and perhaps book sales is the hard work. Telling someone who is sinning that God doesn't care is easy, telling them that a holy God cannot abide sin and is by His very nature bound to punish sin is hard work.

What about that other hot-button issue? Where do you stand on abortion? 

I’ve always had a pro-life ethic and still do. But my pro-life ethic has infinitely expanded from just simply being anti-abortion. For me, pro-life includes the life of the struggling single mom who decides to have that kid and they’re poor. It means being pro-refugee. It means being pro-Muslim. My pro-life ethic, while still not in favor of abortion and certainly not in favor of late-term abortions, has expanded. 

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. Some Christians want the baby born, but then don’t want to help the mama raise that baby. We don’t want to provide the scaffolding for them to thrive and be successful. That, to me, makes no sense at all.

Ms. Hatmaker has a knack for avoiding answers and being intentionally vague. No wonder her books sell so well. After her laundry list of being "pro-refugee" and "pro-Muslim", whatever that means, notice the language she uses. She is "not in favor of abortion" and "certainly not in favor of late-term abortions". Not in favor of? I am not in favor of lots of stuff. When it comes to murdering children in the womb I am not "not in favor" of that, I am disgusted and heart-broken and infuriated by the practice. I am not in favor of subsidizing ethanol, I am 100% opposed to my dying breath to abortion. See the difference there? Ms. Hatmaker's language is designed to assuage the consciences of her allegedly Christian audience while not offending any of her "progressive" pals. Playing word games with the life of children in the balance is disgusting. There is no other way to put it.

The second paragraph is the pretty typical and slanderous charge levied by unbelievers against Christians suggesting that we only care about children when they are in the womb. I would expect better from someone who claims to be a Christian but I am not surprised to see her parrot it back. First, untold millions of dollars are donated by Christians to crisis pregnancy centers that do an incredible work in providing parenting help and material assistance to poor families and especially single moms. Liberals think that volunteering to have the government take money away from other people and throwing it at poor people is compassion but Christians know that actually helping people takes (to use her words) hard work. Even her statement that Christians "scream" about abortion as if it is irrational and crazy to oppose abortion is grotesque. To compound it she dutifully repeats the demonstrably false notion that programs designed to "help" the poor are the only form of compassion for the poor when trillions of dollars and decades of time in the "War on Poverty" has accomplished nothing to reduce poverty and instead have trapped generations in perpetual dependency.

You’re a mother of a multiethnic family. What are your thoughts on Black Lives Matter? 

I’m a supporter of Black Lives Matter, and I am deeply embedded in that conversation. I am learning so much from people of color right now, specifically my black mentors and leaders that I’ve sort of put myself under. This was not a topic I even considered 10 years ago. 

But now I’ve read devastating books like “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. It’s shattering, that piece of work. Brandon and I went down to Montgomery and sat for two days under the leadership of Bryan Stevenson, who wrote “Just Mercy,” and we learned so much from a legal standpoint. This conversation is wrought with tension. But I feel like this is a big part of my task and work, probably forever.

Oh, she is "deeply embedded in that conversation". Right. I would be willing to bet that the actual public leaders of the disingenuously named "Black Lives Matter" movement don't have any idea who she is. At least she can check off the "supports black lives matter" box on her progressive bucket list.

It looks like Rachel Held Evans has some serious competition for the "Most Predictable Guilty White Liberal Religious Woman" title.

You don't have to be a Christian. No one is making you. You are welcome to be whatever you want and accept whatever consequences come from that. But if you are going to claim to be a Christian then you must accept that your feelings or the prevailing cultural winds don't have authority. In being a Christian I submit myself to the authoritative teaching of the Bible and I don't get to amend, subtract or ignore those parts I find inconvenient or that cost me book sales or speaking engagements. The Bible tells me that homosexuality is inherently sinful, without exception. I don't get to hide behind "nuance" and pretend it is otherwise. I don't get to see human life as made in the image of God and then say I am "not in favor" of abortion as if I am expressing my favor or disfavor on a new tax levy for the library. Human beings murdered by other human beings is a crime against humanity and an affront to God. Trying to deflect making that unequivocal statement by dragging unrelated and actually complex issues like immigration policy into the conversation is not nuanced or brave, it is cowardly and intellectually dishonest.

Jen Hatmaker clearly knows a lot about selling books. Kudos to her, I am all in favor of people earning as much as they can. She just as clearly knows nothing about or ignores pretty much everything in Scripture that is mentioned in this interview. I am sure she will get a great deal of affirmation from fellow "progressives" for her "enlightened" and "nuanced" responses and no doubt will piously play the martyr when people call out her error strewn and heretical responses to the interview. For me this interview is nothing more than a bunch of clap-trap that serves an unintentional purpose of reinforcing how important clear, Scripture based thinking is for the church. The next five years are going to see an explosion in this sort of anti-Scriptural nonsense and the church must be willing and able to respond and refute these errors. False progressive pious utterances and empty slogans are fine for political campaigns but they have no place in the battlefield for souls the church fights upon every day.

(see also the satirical send up of Ms. Hatmaker from the Babylon Bee, Jen Hatmaker Takes A Stand For Unclear Stances )

(also see also Matt Walsh responding to Ms. Hatmaker)


Unknown said...

Thanks for the write-up.

Clear analysis and commentary. Her comments are truly troubling. Two verses come to mind.

"Do yourself to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, and who correctly handles the Word of Truth." 2 Timothy

"Not many us us should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because we know that we who teach will be judged more strictly". James

Unknown said...

Oooops. Speaking of "correctly handling the word..." The first verse should read, "Do *your best* to present yourself to God..."

In my defense, I was recalling it from memory :-)

John Draper said...

Hi, Arthur

Thanks for the post. I agree with you. The Bible is anti-homosexual, cover to cover. The Bible is a thoroughly heterosexual book. It assumes heterosexuality. Progressive Christians who try to make the “Six Clobber Verses” mean something othe than that they clearly mean are mistaken, in my view. (An example is Matthew Vines, who wrote “God and the Gay Christian.”) For example, when Leviticus calls homosexuality an “abomination” it’s not saying it was simply a “cultural taboo.” What it means is homosexuality turns God’s stomach.

The Bible says what it says.

Where I differ from you is I’ve come to the conclusion, after studying the Bible for 35 years, that the Bible is the word of man, not God.

Leviticus was written LONG after Moses lived, if he ever existed. It was likely written after the Babylonian exile. What the authors of the law did was take their own prejudices, the majority opinion among the religious Jews, and give it the stamp of holy unction by putting it into the mouth of God.

Think about it. It wasn’t like the ancient Israelites were freely practicing homosexuality and, of a sudden, the law comes along and tells them it’s a sin. “Oh, we shouldn’t do that? Oh, okay. I guess we better stop. Thanks, God. Homosexual sex was fun and all, but I’ll do what I’m told.”

The truth is that God doesn’t speak to man, at least not clearly and unmistakably. I know that probably makes you angry, and I don’t say it just to pick a fight. I say it because I think it’s true. At least that’s what my experience of zealously trying to follow Jesus Christ for 35 years tells me. We all get “impressions” or we “feel the Holy Spirit confirming the truth” of something or a particular verse “speaks to us” -- but never anything specific.

God wants us to figure things out on our own. I mean, if he can speak to man, why not give us something that can actually help us, like the cure for cancer?

Instead we get a lot of ridiculous rules, in my mind obviously man-made rules. For example, check this out from Leviticus 14. It’s what a leper has to go through should he want to be cleansed from his uncleanness.

-- First the leper must bring the priest two clean birds, along with some cedarwood, crimson yarn, and hyssop.
-- Then the priest sacrifices one of the birds immediately—over fresh water in a clay pot—and then dips the living bird, the cedarwood, the yarn, and the hyssop in its blood.
-- Then the priest sprinkles blood on the leper and releases the living bird.
-- Then, seven days hence, the leper washes his clothes, shaves off all his hair and bathes himself.
-- Then, on the eighth day, the leper takes two male lambs, free of blemish, and one ewe lamb, also without blemish, as well as a grain offering of choice flour mixed with oil, back to the priest, who will make of them a burnt offering to the Lord.
-- Then the priest rubs a bit of the blood from the offering on the leper’s right earlobe, on his right thumb and on the big toe of his right foot.
-- Then the priest sprinkles the leper with the oil seven times—not six; seven.
-- Then . . . only after all of this is complete shall the leper be considered free of the sin and guilt that led to his leprosy in the first place; only then shall he be allowed to rejoin the community of God.

You encourage your readers to use discernment and I would agree. But how is one to do that? Listen for God’s voice? Be honest -- how well does that really work? Do you hear God’s unmistakable voice? No. You get “inklings” or you’re “moved” in a certain way.

That’s how God speaks?

Why doesn’t He just be plain?

Scripture, you say? Well, I would agree that scripture has some strong opinions, but the problem is that it contradicts itself all the time. For example, are we to believe Paul when he tells us the law is the “ministry of death” or do we believe Jesus, who called for strict Torah observance?

The Bible contradicts itself because it was written by men over 3,000 years.

We’re on our own. I’m not saying God doesn’t exist. I’m just saying he doesn’t speak to humans.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this write up, Arthur, it is very enlightening.
Bethany Woods (can't remember my blog password to sing in)