Portraying Hatmaker as a progressive prophet — the “conscious” of Evangelicalism — took a back seat to helping the reader understand why many Evangelicals see Hatmaker as a threat to theological integrity. It also misses a great opportunity to link for the Politico readership the rise of Christian leaders like Hatmaker in the Internet era to the rise of outsiders like Donald Trump.
Politico has a puff piece lauding the popular left-wing Evangelical Jen Hatmaker , with a misleading headline declaring that her opposition to Donald Trump made her an Enemy Of The People among Evangelicals. But in fact, Trump opposition didn’t have a lot to do with it. She burned her bridges with conservative Evangelicals earlier, as even the piece points out: Excerpts:
Back in 2013, she wrote a blog post about getting uninvited to speak at a church, partly because of her critical tone toward ministries that do not emphasize social justice. She also owned up to the fact that her ministry had taken a “hard left.” In the spring of 2016, before most people were paying attention, she had spoken in support of gay teens. Her gradual shift to supporting same-sex relationships, culminating in her public announcement last year, also did not happen in a vacuum: In 2016, a slim majority of young white evangelicals—51 percent—said they now support same-sex marriage, according to Public Religion Research Institute.
Last year, colleagues and friends had warned Hatmaker not to throw her career away—not to say she was coming around on LGBT rights. But she couldn’t think one thing in private and say another in public. “I just thought, my insides are going to have to match my outsides, come what may,” she says. In the process, she broke a number of rules, both spoken and unspoken. For one, in supporting same-sex marriage, Hatmaker failed what has become for some a litmus test for who counts as an evangelical and who doesn’t.
The piece, written by Tiffany Stanley, is theologically underinformed. It’s fine to write a piece favorable to Hatmaker, if that’s what you want to do, but it’s not giving the reader a real sense of how serious, theologically speaking, Hatmaker’s LGBT decision is within normative Evangelicalism. Nothing justifies threats of violence against Hatmaker, or anybody else. (Side note: I’d love to see a story some time about prominent Evangelicals and other Christians who took the opposite stand, and suffered threats of violence, including death threats, for having done so; I’ve met a number of these people.) Still, the author treats Hatmaker’s apostasy on LGBT as if the negative reaction to it from other Evangelicals was arbitrary and bigoted. Denny Burk knows better.
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.
Here is a line from the piece:
For her critics, that means she has too little accountability.
The piece never explores this, nor mentions it again. That is the profile’s major weakness.