Religion News Service writer Jonathan Merritt recently noted an apparent “shift” in stance from popular writer and speaker Jen Hatmaker. Hatmaker is best known for her wildly popular books and her and her family’s home-renovation reality TV show. After a speaking event in Raleigh this weekend, she wrote the following post on Facebook:
. . . So whatever the cost and loss, this is where I am: gay teens? Gay adults? Mamas and daddies of precious gaybees? Friends and beloved neighbors of very dear LGBT folks?
Here are my arms open wide. So wide that every last one of you can jump inside. You are so dear, so beloved, so precious and important. You matter so desperately and your life is worthy and beautiful. There is nothing "wrong with you," or in any case, nothing more right or wrong than any of us, which is to say we are all hopelessly screwed up but Jesus still loves us beyond all reason and lives to make us all new, restored, whole. Yay for Jesus! Thank God he loves us. He is not embarrassed of any of us. I am not a scandal, you are not a scandal. We are not "bringing down his brand."
Anyhow, my message to you today is simple, LGBT gang and all those who love you: You are loved and special and wanted and needed.
The post quickly generated more 35,000 likes, but it also somewhat predictably drew consternation from both the traditionalist and progressive ends of the broader LGBT debate. One commenter, representing the progressive side, asked if the post meant that Hatmaker had come around to an affirming position since 2014, when Hatmaker stated her traditionalist position amid the World Vision story. In that post, Hatmaker wrote:
I want you to know that I land on the side of traditional marriage as God’s first and clear design. I believe God’s original creation is how we were crafted to thrive: in marriage, in family, and in community, which has borne out for millennia in Scripture, interpretation, practice, and society (within and without the church).
The commenter asked, “I will always champion your words and welcome of love, and I'm ok with us not agreeing. But I do feel like our LGBTQ folks deserve clarity,” assumedly on whether Hatmaker or other Christians would still ask LGBT people to change their orientation or commit to celibacy. In other words, love is good, BUT…
On the traditionalist side, many commenters likewise wanted to know if Hatmaker’s post meant that she had abandoned her previously stated position and, thus, the consistent Christian teaching on same-sex relations. As one commenter wrote, “Jen, are you saying that to be gay/lesbian is not a sin? That it is perfectly okay, according to Scripture, to be proudly that way? . . . We are all loved by Christ, but our sins grieve Him because our sins hurt us.”
In other words, love is good, BUT …
Given Hatmaker’s large public platform, constituents might understandably wish for more clarity from her on an issue around which confusion and conflict swarm like flies. But the response from both sides of the spectrum also highlights how confused we Christians are about the nature of love—the love that God has for us, and the love we are to have for those who don’t know him.
The First and Last Word
When I was 13, I began attending Sunday school for teens at the Methodist church where I would later encounter Jesus and commit my life to him. One evening, our group sat in a dingy rental trailer behind the church building to watch a televised rendition of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The quality was grainy, the actors’ skin tone way too light to be historically accurate. Yet still the plot gripped me. In my young mind, I understood that the son was a scoundrel, that he had broken the heart of his father, and that he deserved the muck and poverty he eventually sank into.