Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle, Eugene Peterson and the church

jen hatmaker and churchI’ve been circling around writing this for a while. Some of you may be like, didn’t everyone get mad at Jen and Glennon like months ago???

Yes. Like you, I watched the storm rage around them and when the world moved on, I quietly watched the aftermath.

Now, it’s Eugene Peterson’s turn. The sharks are circling and here we go again.

But, before I go any further, please note: this post isn’t about whether I support their beliefs. Instead, this is focused on our response to these leaders who are now facing a hail storm of stones.

If you missed some of the news, here’s a quick run down:

Late last year Jen Hatmaker (NY Times best-selling author, pastor’s wife and Christian speaker) announced her support of same sex marriage.

She was abruptly met with fierce opposition from her fans. Fellow bloggers took the opportunity to publicly scorn her for her beliefs. Lifeway quickly jumped on the bandwagon and yanked her books from their shelves.

In a moving Good Friday blog post (one of my favorites of hers) she painfully shared how she became the focus of a gossip train inside her personal circle of friends. Even still, she was met with limited compassion and a slew of less-than-kind comments.

Then we have Glennon Doyle. Good Lord did she freak Evangelical America out. Glennon (NY Times bestselling author, Christian mommy blogger, speaker, philanthropist and activist) went through a divorce and months later announced her relationship with Abby Wambach, Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. She and Abby married in May 2017.

People lost their minds over this one. Opinions went wild and she was quickly booted from the Christian club (in a response post, Glennon claims to have never been inside the Christian club. Just claimed to be a Jesus lover. Even still, many want to remind her that she is no longer “in”)

Now it’s a boy’s turn in the hot seat. Eugene Peterson (author of The Message translation of the Bible) recently said in an interview that he would perform a same sex marriage if asked. However, later retracted his statement and now says he supports traditional marriage.

Eugene managed to anger both sides of the argument. Those who loved him for saying it, now hate him for changing his answer. And those who hated his first answer, feel like he can’t be trusted in his second answer. But, because of his retracted statement, The Message Bible will still grace the shelves at Lifeway.

The collective works of these three leaders dramatically impacted a vast number of lives (myself included).  That servant work matters. It deeply matters.

As I’ve watched these stories unfold around two of my favorite authors and one who penned one of my favorite translations of the Bible, my heart broke right along with theirs. Because I know a thing or two about being pushed out for thinking differently. I know what it’s like to be rejected for not fitting the part I am expected to play.

It hurts like hell.

One of my pastors believes everyone’s story is in the Bible (I love that). And as I watched all of this unfold, one story jumped out at me:

Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.

If this sounds weird, hang with me.

*I promise this is so so good*

Abraham slept with his wife Sarah’s maidservant because Sarah was having difficultly getting pregnant. Hagar gave birth to Abraham’s first son. Sarah, later had a son also.

But, Sarah was threatened by Hagar and her son. Out of fear, Sarah demanded Abraham send Hagar and the boy away.

He did.

This was equivalent to a death sentence.

His own son.

And his son’s mother.

I’ve read this story many times. And every time I’m always like, WHAT. IS. THIS. HOLY. HELL.

Now, the church loves Abraham. The lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is deeply honored and Abraham is praised as the “father of our faith”.

I also love the legacy of Abraham. I’ve taught his stories from the pulpit too. But, what about the other son???

There is a beautiful piece in scripture where we see Hagar and her son in the desert after they were thrown out. Hagar was out of water and her son was crying. Scripture says, she laid there sobbing.  SOBBING BECAUSE SHE WAS WATCHING HER SON DIE.

I can’t even.

But, the story gets better.

God heard them crying.

GOD HEARD.

And he spoke.

He said that she didn’t need to be afraid. That he would make her son into a great nation too. He then led her to water and gave her strength to raise her son alone.

Which she did.

Like a rock star.

There is so much packed into this story, but this is where I will leave you in response to what the church is doing to those who they disagree with:

Many in the church see unconventional people like Jen, Glennon and Eugene (and anyone else who may think differently) as a threat. A threat to their fundamental beliefs and a threat to the way they operate.

Sarah felt the same way towards Hagar and her son. She pushed them out. To their death. But they didn’t die. God had a different ending…a much, much better one.

God saw Hagar and God saw Sarah.

In his ending there isn’t a winner or a loser.

Both win.

Because THERE IS ENOUGH GRACE AND BLESSING FOR BOTH.

The hidden gem is this:

We do not need to be afraid of people wrecking our perfectly ordered system. Because the only perfectly ordered system is one where no matter our theological differences, there are enough seats for everyone at the table. Because the perfectly ordered system never includes fear or exclusion – it only includes love.

What this story tells me about God’s character is that we are all his little, chubby, beautiful babies.

He loves the people at Lifeway just as much as he loves Jen Hatmaker. He loves all the haters on Glennon’s Fb page just as much as he loves Glennon. He loves all the pastors refusing to use The Message Bible just as much as he loves Eugene. God can (and is big enough to) equally bless and love both.

No matter what side you are on, this picture should stretch us. It should challenge us.

And, I believe that’s exactly what we are supposed to gain from stories in scripture: a calling to a higher standard of love and a more radical view of grace.

In closing I offer an open letter to both sides,

Dear church:

We are not created to live by fear. We do not need to be grace hogs hoarding grace; fearing if we give some away, there might not be enough left for the rest of us. The very love that provided for Sarah inside the club is the very same love that comforted Hagar after being kicked out of the club. GOD RECKLESSLY LOVED AND BLESSED BOTH.

(Side note, be careful who you throw out. Outcasts tend to encounter God in crazy intense ways while in the desert. They don’t die outside your walls. They rise. And typically with a stronger, louder, more violent voice for the oppressed and unwanted)

Dear outcasts:

We don’t need to be terrified of a group of people who we feel hold all of the power. Because they don’t hold any power at all. In the words of Anne Lamott, bring it on. We know how this ends: grace bats last.

Grace and peace,

Anna

PS: if this challenges you to get to know someone on the other side of your argument, YAY. We’re all learning and growing here. I share a personal experience of this in a recent post about my evening with a Muslim.

PSS: If you’re particularly curious about the topic of homosexuality inside of Christianity, check out my recent interview with Brett Trapp.

19 thoughts on “Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle, Eugene Peterson and the church

  1. Grace. This is the Gospel message. God’s grace should inspire our grace with each other. Regardless of what you believe theologically about homosexual marriage commitments, (I am still on the fence with that. I swing back and forth with arguments in my head). But regardless of which side of the fence the Christian is on, WE MUST NOT JUDGE. It’s not our job. There is no argument spoken by Jesus that permits us to judge others. He tells stories over and over about grace and forgiveness. Take for example the “wheat and tares” story, the woman caught in adultery, the servant who owed a huge fine but was forgiven by the king, and then goes out to demand a small debt from another man, the 70 X 70 rule, “first take the log out of your own eye”, Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple asking for forgiveness. Jesus spoke absolutely nothing about kicking out the “errant brother or sister”. Nothing. Not once.

    Paul does. That’s ok. Paul has a lot of wise things to say but he wasn’t God and he wasn’t infallible. If I find something that so drastically conflicts with Jesus’ teaching of grace and non-judgemental teaching, sorry Paul, I need to err on the side of grace. Paul told the Corinthian church to “kick that brother out”. The brother was having a deviant sexual relationship. I’m a pastor. There are many in my church with sinful sexual relationships. If you are a pastor and you think there is no sexual sin of any kind in your church, I would bet you are either blind or mistaken. It’s tempting to set a precedent and kick them all out. Then I would have the pure, holy body of God lovers to present to the King. But that’s not Jesus’ way. He sat with sinners and dined with sinners. He didn’t even judge his disciples. His “church”. I Praise him and thank him for that model.

    So the guiding principle I want to flow through my life and actions is that which is most Biblically sound: Love your neighbor. This means give Grace to all because I know the tremendous amount of Grace God has given to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It seems to me that messages of alienation, prejudice, us vs. them, shunning, and exclusion go directly against Christ’s messages of love one another. I grew up in fairly fundamentalist churches (though, not with fundamentalist parents) and it hurt my spirit even as a child to go there and here bad things about the “other” denominations (especially Catholics). While I flinch whenever any Christian “leader” expresses a modern viewpoint that goes against traditional teaching because I know the onslaught of bile about to hit them from the Christian community, they should be allowed to have an opinion.

    Without censorship.
    Without shaming.
    Without shunning.
    Without condemnation.

    Because last I checked, no one has Christ all figured out, and no one has a monopoly on the truth.

    I’m sorry Eugene Peterson felt he had to retract his statements in order to feel welcomed inside a Church body that he has given so much time, effort, and wisdom to. That’s just sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This issue is not one of tolerance, or of personal preference and opinion, or legalism vs. grace, or even fear. The issue is this – when you purposefully set yourself up in the eyes of the public as a teacher of the Word of God, you have a dire and sacred responsibility to handle the words in the Bible correctly.

    When a teacher promotes an idea, lifestyle or opinion that directly opposes the Word, they put themselves in danger (James 3:1) AND the people who follow them. The goal of every teacher and leader should be to point others to the truth that will set them free. Yes – this MUST be done in and through the Spirit of God, which will manifest the truth in grace and love. But, when you promote grace and love as opposed to the truth, you’ve set yourself and others for great harm and deception.

    Although I completely disagree with the bashing that has been going on, the truth is simply the truth. No, we don’t have a corner on it, but we do have a book that clearly and lovingly shows it to us without apology. When a Christian teacher throws that truth to the wind, in lieu of a politically correct agenda or even the more noble cause of tolerance, we should not stand for it. Because if we do, everything becomes relative and that defeats the very purpose of having a Truth we can rely on. We then become our own God, defining right and wrong as we and our culture sees fit. This is not Christianity. It’s humanism disguised in a Christian cloak.

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    • Hi there! I hear this argument a lot. And I completely understand where it’s coming from. I think the part where this gets tricky is that many people interpret scripture differently. This is why it’s so easy for so many people to hold different convictions (in my time as a pastor this was SO evident. One person will hold very firmly to one part of scripture while someone else holds super tight to a seemingly opposite scripture and both think the other is totally possessed by the devil himself lol).
      After studying scripture for years (especially with someone like Eugene who even interpreted it into a translation of the Bible) I think it’s fair to assume that most leaders are speaking their thoughts from a well researched place. Whether or not we agree on the conclusions of their research, it’s difficult to deny the depth of which they have studied, and at minimum can respect the amount of effort and time placed into that research.
      I will not agree with everyone’s theology – because I have done my own research and have my own opinions and thoughts. However, I can look at someone else’s and have an understanding that they have dug deep and this is where they have landed. Whether or not I agree, I can respect it just as I would want someone to respect where I myself have landed.
      I totally feel like I’m writing another blog post, so I’m going to stop while I’m ahead! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for sparking discussion 🙂
      Hugs,
      Anna

      Like

    • AG- beautifully written. The truth is the truth.
      Anna- Sad that you felt the need to wrongly sum up AG’s eloquent comment as “I hear this argument a lot”. As if the words he/she wrote are a standard rebuttal or something.
      I think the part that you seem to be failing at is thinking that individuals interpretations of the Bible seem to carry the same weight as the Bible. Just because it is a “researched opinion” doesn’t make it Biblical.
      Just because we are not called to be a judge and jury does not mean were are to disregard truth. The truth is that sex is a holy gift between a man and a woman in marriage. That’s it. No exceptions. Everything beyond that scope is a sin. Humans have decided to make it a “grey” area (spelling intended).
      You wrote, “a calling to a higher standard of love and a more radical view of grace”. This borders on New Age theology. Grace does not need to be radicalized. We simply need to implement it in the way God intended.
      “”What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’” (2 Corinthians 5:21).1 ” from http://www.allaboutgod.com/definition-of-gods-grace-faq.htm
      Grace is not tolerating, accepting, and embracing sin. Grace is loving the sinner while demonstrating and encouraging holiness.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am in complete agreement with this post. I wonder if you would mind if I used it or part of it in response to a similar issue in our church body. I think the tone and the reasoning are right on point.
      Thank you. Bill Elliott

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    • This is where I meant to leave his.
      I am in complete agreement with this post. I wonder if you would mind if I used it or part of it in response to a similar issue in our church body. I think the tone and the reasoning are right on point.
      Thank you. Bill Elliott

      Like

  4. I really enjoy your posts, Anna.

    I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves EVERYONE and He wants ALL to come to a saving knowledge of Him.

    But God’s Word – the Bible- gives his followers a very clear guideline. Homosexuality is a sin. But then so is lying and stealing and adultery and murder. Sin is sin. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

    My concern as a Christ Follower is that these leaders in the “Christian” community are condoning SIN. So, would Jen Hatmaker say that she supported murder? Would she support adultery? It’s sin. And God Himself has said that homosexuality is wrong.

    I have several friends who have chosen the sin of a homosexual lifestyle. Do I love them? Yes!!! Do I spend time with them? Absolutely!!! Do they understand that I, as a Christ Follower believe that homosexuality is a sin? Yes most certainly do. But I continue to pray for them and love them. They know exactly what I believe as a follower of Jesus, and I am always sharing about all that God is doing in my life and in the lives of others I am involved with. They know exactly where I stand.

    I believe it is wrong to condone sin regardless of what it is!!! But then, we are truly living in the last days and when God has had his fill of the depravity of man, Jesus is coming back…..I do not want ot have to stand before God and tell Him why I did NOT share the truth of the Gospel with those that I called FRIEND. Christian leaders today are going to be held to a greater accountability for leading so many people astray. that saddens me.

    But, until I step into heaven, I will continue to share the love of Jesus, and love on those He places in my path.

    Again, thank you for your writings that prod me to go deeper!!!

    In Christ Alone,

    Kim Payne

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anna, Once again thank you for your bold encouragement to those being attacked by their brothers n sisters in Christ. One thing the Message is a transliteration and not a translation. With that said, what a great bible for people to be able to understand God’s love n grace. I am always looking to become friends with people of different beliefs. Not to convert them to my way of thinking but just to love them as Christ loves me, and maybe learn from them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I’m always looking to become friends with people of different beliefs. Not to convert them to my way of thinking but just to love them as Christ loves me, and maybe learn from them”. GAH. Best quote of the day.

      Like

  6. I find it ironic that we kick people out of our bookstores, churches, and friend groups because they believe ONE or TWO things differently then us. Most of the time it’s not even that they are actually doing anything wrong, it’s just their theological beliefs about some other people group. But we are so threaten by those beliefs we kick them out so that we can hold onto our Bible full of WAY more messed up people. Kinda ironic.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Anna, Thank you for this blog. You have truly embraced the love of Jesus. I have read “Blue Babies Pink” and have great compassion for gay Christians who feel shunned and exiled from the Church because of the “sin”. Christianity is a club for ALL despite what is being touted by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. ” Love your neighbor as yourself”

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