Jesus said, “You will know Christians by the way they burn books that contain opinions they disagree with and send the charred remains back to the author, along with death threats.”
At least that’s what you might think when you hear about the horrific responses to evangelical author Jen Hatmaker, after she posted on social media in August of 2016 that Donald Trump made her “sad and horrified and despondent.”
To add further insult to injury, during an interview with Religion News Service a few months later, she said she supported same-sex relationships. If evangelicals were frustrated by her lack of obedience before, the pitchforks were drawn now.
An article in Politico documents the harrowing events that followed:
There were soon angry commenters and finger-wagging bloggers. She says people in her little town of Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, pulled her children aside and said terrible things about her and her husband. She was afraid to be in public, and she wasn’t sleeping or eating well. “The way people spoke about us, it was as if I had never loved Jesus a day in my life,” Hatmaker recently told an audience in Dallas. The gilded auditorium was quiet, its 2,300 seats filled to capacity with nearly all women. “And I was just an ally,” she said. “Think about how our gay brothers and sisters feel.”
One thing Jesus did say was, “You will know [my followers] by their fruit” — that is, those who love Jesus will demonstrate his attributes in their everyday lives. While he didn’t utter a single word about gay marriage, he had plenty of criticism when it came to the qualities that best describe Donald Trump — money-hungry, eager to stomp on the marginalized, and using religion as merely a tool to appear righteous in public. The humility of someone like Hatmaker, condemned and written off by evangelicals as a “sell out” to liberalism, is far more Christ-like than the behavior of the evangelicals currently running the country.
But people like Hatmaker who support so-called “liberal” causes are hardly the biggest issue regarding the future of American evangelicalism:
A recent survey found that white evangelicals are now more likely than the average American, or any other religious group polled, to excuse politicians’ immoral behavior. Even the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, who leads that denomination’s public policy arm and was perhaps the most famous Never Trump evangelical, was forced to go on a kind of apology tour after the election in order to keep his job. He said he was sorry if his criticisms had been too broad; he didn’t mean to criticize everyone who voted for Trump.
Hatmaker, meanwhile, has not backed down. In May, she posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing a black tank top with the words, “I ain’t sorry.” She has kept talking to her followers, many of them white and generally conservative Christian women, about supporting gun control, Black Lives Matter and refugees.
Fortunately for Hatmaker, her loss of former readers has gained her a set of new ones who admire her for sticking to her guns, while others backed down after realizing their careers were at stake (looking at you, Eugene Peterson).
Indeed, it seems that success is Hatmaker’s best revenge against her haters: her newest book, Of Mess and Moxie, topped the New York Times Best Sellers list, and her speaking tours are selling out like hotcakes.
She’s found a way to keep her faith without embracing Trumpism, putting her in line with many on the Religious Left. The question now is why so many on the Christian Right can’t find a way to do the same when the consequences of their GOP-fueled hypocrisy are obvious to anyone who can read a poll.
(Screenshot via YouTube)