Well, once again the internet from evangelical quarters have been ablaze the past few days over Jen Hatmaker’s soft, squishy statement apparently affirming gay marriage. I’ll say from the outset, this post is not to address what she said or didn’t say; there have been plenty of others doing that. Rather, I want to leverage this situation to address a larger concern regarding the appeal of Hatmaker and other women ministry leaders.
I hear a lot of trope against women’s ministries being absent real thought, gravitate towards feelings and generally don’t want to dig deep into theological study. I suppose that is probably true in many cases and these are observations I’ve voiced myself. But I don’t think it’s enough to simply castigate the disciples as those who lack discernment and don’t want rigorous study. There is a reason that Hatmaker and other ministry leaders like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Rachel Held Evans gain such an audience with women. They speak in a way that resonates with many. Whether it’s criticizing the old fundamentalist regime whilst demonstrating how awful they distorted “biblical womanhood” or emoting about past experiences that challenged healthy womanhood or evoking a giggle while recounting the challenges of parenting, it occurs to me that they touch the feminine soul.
And let’s not forget about Sarah Young and Jesus tapping into our hearts through flowery words via the direct messages from Jesus as if God was a 40 year old housewife. I addressed this in my master’s thesis how God speech equates to God’s revelation of himself and character, which he fully expressed in the Son. But it’s not lost on me that there is a reason that Jesus Calling has sold millions of copies even though Young sets an horrendous precedent for how God speaks, supposing that the messages she has received equate to Jesus speaking (like, how do we know?).
I suppose the same can be true of men’s ministry and platforms that resonate with what men identify with. And it goes beyond gender, other types of ministries that “speak our heart,” like race and politics, ministry platforms that promote patriotism or minority concerns. Not that the specialized interest is bad per se, but that it can have the impact of speaking to our secondary or even tertiary identities, then luring us into a place where speaking to these specialized concerns becomes the priority. Once a ministry platform or minister taps into the sacred place it doesn’t take much for us to relax discernment and be lulled into an acquiesced position of acceptance into whatever the “minister” is conveying according to these concerns.
You see what happens, don’t you? These voices can become influential factors precisely because they resonate with us. A Facebook friend enforced this idea with this statement on her post;
So here you have these women leaders who outwardly seem to be everything many espouse about biblical femininity: soft spoken. Speaks gently in whispers. Wife and mother. Beautiful homes. One lives on a farm. All gardeners. Farm to table culinary skills. They appear to be sweet, kind, gracious, and tender. Huge beautiful smiles and family photos grace the cover of their new book (with a picturesque sunset in the background, of course). They speak often of love, healing, and other soft topics. But as soon as they are asked in an off camera interview about their beliefs related to tougher issues- we see just how left their theology really is. I mean theology that is waaaaay off!! When lovingly challenged, they still defend error, undermine the authority of God’s word, and encourage others to do the same. More and more of their skewed theology comes to light and it is clear how off base they are (and really, their wrong beliefs were never hidden, but in their publications and books all along). And their followers, who esteem how these teachers make them feel OVER sound doctrine, come out the woodwork to defend them. Again, the outward appearance of these women teachers has nothing to do with what many of them REALLY believe.
This is what can happen with ministries that “speak our heart.” We can become so beholden to the way the spokespersons convey a brand of truth, that we can start to ignore truth altogether and not only accept a perverted distortion in it’s place, but defend the spokespersons. We really need to be careful about ministry platforms and what ministers say make us feel according to some perceived sense of relational camaraderie. All must be evaluated against the witness of the whole counsel of God in Scripture and the historic witness of the church.