Talk about Digging Up Your Lede and Making a Mountain out of It

Can you believe it?. Jen Hatmaker is so courageous that she’s even had death threats for — wait for it — opposing Trump:

Last fall, Jen Hatmaker, a popular evangelical author and speaker, started getting death threats. Readers mailed back her books to her home address, but not before some burned the pages or tore them into shreds. LifeWay Christian Stores, the behemoth retailer of the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled her titles off the shelves. Hatmaker was devastated. Up until that point, she had been a wildly influential and welcome presence in the evangelical world, a Christian author whose writings made the New York Times best-seller list and whose home renovation got its own HGTV series. But then 2016 happened, and, well, of course everything changed.

During the campaign, as other white evangelicals coalesced around the Republican nominee, Hatmaker effectively joined the coterie of “Never Trump” evangelicals, telling her more than half a million Facebook followers that Donald Trump made her “sad and horrified and despondent.” After the “Access Hollywood” tape leaked and prominent evangelical men came to Trump’s defense, she tweeted: “We will not forget. Nor will we forget the Christian leaders that betrayed their sisters in Christ for power.” Then, in an interview with Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt, she made what was a stunning admission for her evangelical community: She said she supported same-sex relationships.

That’s when the full weight of conservative Christian outrage crashed down on Hatmaker. 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.”

Can you believe bloggers went after her? Talk about the valley of the shadow of death.

How does Jen go on in such an unjust world where fills a plus-2,000 seat auditorium? She manages:

She forged ahead anyway. In July, she debuted her weekly interview-style podcast, and it quickly shot to the top 10 in the religion and spirituality category on iTunes. By the end of the summer, Of Mess and Moxie hit the New York Times best-seller list. She created a fall event series, the Moxie Matters Tour, with her friend and Belong Tour alum, singer-songwriter Nichole Nordeman. They scaled it back from the original tour’s arenas, booking more intimate spaces like churches and theaters. After several of the stops on their 11-city tour sold out, the duo added eight more dates to the calendar after the new year.

The size of Hatmaker’s audience—her “tribe” as she calls it—has held steady despite the backlash she has faced, she told me. But she says there has still been some turnover, with fans lost and fans gained because of her comments. Recently, when Trump made a Pocahontas joke in front of Navajo veterans, Hatmaker tweeted that he was “incapable of maturity, decency, self-awareness, or shame. He humiliates us every single day. We can never stop calling out this behavior.” As sexual misconduct charges against powerful men continued to break, she wrote a note of solidarity with victims on Facebook, adding, “Voting for molesters because we prefer them to stay in power is evil,” which prompted thousands of shares and a lively debate in the comments section about whether someone who opposes abortion can support Roy Moore’s pro-choice Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. When a commenter posted, “She’s talking to YOU, Alabama,” Hatmaker replied, “And Franken and Spacey and dirty clergy and all of them. Let no one escape.”

Hatmaker also recently tweeted that the evangelical subculture “tends to elevate a very homogeneous voice: white, mostly male, women who don’t upset the power differential we’ve come to count on (white, conservative, straight, Republican).” Going against the grain, she wrote, threatens “commercial success.” But Hatmaker notes that a mentor recently advised her to just lead whatever followers she had. “I really took that advice,” she told me. “And I have felt real free since.”

Notice, that means Jen is to evangelicalism what Trump is to the political establishment. But don’t dare tell Jen or the journalist who covered her, Tiffany Stanley, that celebrity has both a tremendous upside and can easily turn toxic if fans abandon the star (think Garrison Keillor). Jen Hatmaker is a prophet, a truth-teller, whom the press can use to show the bigotry of evangelicals. Remember — death threats (but no mention of contacting the police of FBI).

And also, do remember how courageous Jen is according to the feature story writer:

While she’s against abortion, she takes pains to say she has an expansive view of what “pro-life” means. And she doesn’t think holding that view necessarily ties her to the GOP, even at a time when white evangelicals are as closely affiliated as ever with the Republican Party.

That’s almost as radical as saying Jen “supports same-sex relationships.” What does support mean? And what is a same-sex relationship? Code for gay marriage? Or a way to get credit as tolerant and progressive without ever having to stand in protest with gay Americans?

I tried to find at Jen’s website whether she attended or supported the Women’s March last January. I didn’t see much, but apparently the Trump Administration has been so traumatic that she had to do a podcast series on food. The first show was yummy:

Welcome to our all new series on (wait for it) FOOD! We kick off this series on one of our most FAVORITE topics with the amazing cookbook author and host of Food Network’s Aarti Party, Aarti Sequeira! Aarti got her start as a journalist and working CNN, dreaming of becoming the next Oprah. Always a lover of food, she began blogging about cooking and she and her husband started a YouTube cooking-variety show in their tiny L.A. home kitchen. Eventually Aarti competed on and won Season 6 of Food Network Star with her trademark food signature: American favorites with an Indian soul. She has gone on to to star in her highly successful show, along with appearances on The Talk, Dr. Oz and the Today Show (where she freaked out Al Roker by telling him she licked his plate!). By the end of this episode, you’ll want to steal Aarti’s leftovers (like Jen confesses she actually once did). BONUS INTERVIEW: Jen chats with one of our own from The Tribe, the designer of our amazing pink podcast logo; Jenny Mecher of ThreeLetterBirds.com.

Way to stick it to the man.

Did Tiffany Stanley even bother to look at Hatmaker’s website? Crediting this evangelical celebrity with being part of the resistance is like thinking Division 1 athletes are bookish.

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8 thoughts on “Talk about Digging Up Your Lede and Making a Mountain out of It

  1. Well, there’s this:

    Writing in the Washington Post, Bethany Allen-Ebrihimian takes me to task. Excerpts:

    But when someone published a book claiming that American Christians face looming persecution and even extinction, as influential Christian columnist Rod Dreher did in his bestseller “The Benedict Option” this year, journalists did not ask, “What is your evidence?” It doesn’t seem that anyone has interviewed sociologists and political scientists, or even quoted basic statistics, to see whether this claim squared with reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds like she has zero respect for her customers. Or, maybe she is too stupid to realize how LifeWay feels about her unique views on abortion and same sex marriage. She is definitely a victim. Someone must have told her that being a victim would more than make up for her offending her target audience.

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  3. I can’t agree that Jen is an evangelical. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility that she has worthwhile things to say. And knowing Texas as I do, I went to school in Oklahoma and have relatives in Texas, I am not surprised by her experiences. The residents of some states wear their religion on their sleeves more than others states, but there are no states wear the majority wear their religion on their sleeves more than the majority do in Texas.

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  4. See?

    This Politico piece is a classic example of why you really can’t trust the mainstream media to report knowledgeably about religion. The URL for the Hatmaker piece touts her as “the conscious [sic] of Evangelicalism” — which is how the story reads. That gives away the game: this is a story about how a charismatic young Evangelical woman came to hold a moral conviction that very few Evangelicals have ever believed, historically, but which is suddenly popular in American culture — and in so doing, became the conscience of Evangelicalism. Are those Evangelicals who stand by Christian orthodoxy on LGBT matters people without a conscience? Is that really fair or accurate, simply as a matter of religious reportage? The thing is, Tiffany Stanley is well educated in religion; she holds a M.Div. from Harvard, and has done professional reporting on religion. She’s not outside of her depth at all; she just assumes that Jen Hatmaker is right.

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  5. These people who stand up against Trump are like John the Baptist.

    They both do it but now we are not they. They are still evangelicals.

    In the spring of 2016, National Review published its “Against Trump” issue. Twenty-one prominent conservatives signed individual statements of opposition to Trump’s candidacy. Of those 21, only six continue to speak publicly against his actions.

    “What should Rubin do instead? She should, Cooke insinuates, follow the high example he set himself.”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/conservatism-is-what-conservatives-think-say-and-do/548738/

    Tim Keller — “First, the church would have to be political without being partisan. That is, the church would have to equip all its members to be culturally engaged through vocation and civic involvement without identifying corporately with one political party. Second, the church would have to be confessional yet ecumenical. That is, the church would have to be fully orthodox WITHIN ITS theological and ecclesiastical TRADITION YET NOT NARROW and harsh toward other kinds of Christians. It should be especially desirous of cooperation with non-Western Christian leaders and churches. Third, the church would not only have to preach the Word faithfully, but also be committed to beauty and sanctity, the arts, and human rights.”

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  6. cw, Hatmaker is just one more evangelical celebrity whom the anti-Trump mainstream media can use to mock evangelicals for not getting in line with the right evangelicals. Sort of like someone in the New Yorker.

    Liked by 2 people

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