Lifeway Christian Resources announced last week that it has discontinued resources featuring bestselling Bible study author Jen Hatmaker after she expressed the idea that “LGBT relationships can be holy.”
“In a recent interview, [Hatmaker] voiced significant changes in her theology of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage — changes which contradict LifeWay’s doctrinal guidelines,” LifeWay spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press last Thursday. “As a result, LifeWay has discontinued selling her resources.”
Hatmaker, author of the New York Times bestselling book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, expressed the heretical views in an interview with Religion News Service (RNS), in an article which ran last Tuesday.
Many outlets cited Hatmaker’s comments on the legal status of gay marriage as the reason behind LifeWay’s decision. These statements, however, could be defended as falling in line with orthodox Christian doctrine. Here’s Hatmaker’s answer to whether she supports gay marriage politically:
From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends.
From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not.
Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.
Hatmaker’s declaration that the church has to “do better” in treating “the LGBT community like family” is correct, but not on their terms. Jesus Christ calls His followers to love one another, and even to love our enemies. Many Christians identify as LGBT, and some who struggle with same-sex attraction nonetheless wish to adhere to an orthodox Christian view of sexuality: that it is only good within the bounds of marriage, which is between one man and one woman.
When the author said gay couples “need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community,” she is also correct. Orthodox Christians should disagree with the idea that homosexual unions are the same as marriage, but we can understand and sympathize that spouses and parents need help in community. There should be Christian help available to gay couples, so long as it is clear that the church does not smile upon sexual sin.
Christians cannot accept homosexual relationships as marriages, and they also arguably should oppose children being raised in such environments. However, if those relationships are to continue and if those children will be raised in them, Christians can and arguably should help gay couples solve their relationship and parenting issues.
In other words, these answers were politically astute — Hatmaker was skirting heresy on sexual ideas, but she may not actually have contradicted Christian doctrine in these statements.
Next Page: The real reason why this interview cost Hatmaker her relationship with LifeWay.
Later on in the interview, Hatmaker did make a declaration which cannot be interpreted as anything other than heresy, from an orthodox Christian standpoint. When asked, “Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?” she responded, “I do.”
She compounded this by explaining her hopes for her children. If one of her children were gay, she said, “We want for all of our kids the same thing: faithful, committed marriage and a beautiful family that is committed to God and the church. I would have the same standard across the board, no matter what.”
Given Hatmaker’s discussion of the LGBT community, the legality of gay marriage, and the possibility that LGBT relationships can be holy, it seems highly unlikely she meant the orthodox Christian meaning of marriage in this final quote. If her child were gay, would she nevertheless want him or her to settle down with a member of the opposite sex, which is the Christian definition of marriage?
In fact, there is evidence to suggest Hatmaker changed her views on marriage. In 2014, she wrote, “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 created 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).” Recently, the post was removed from her site.
Jesus did not just say His followers should love one another and even their enemies — he also emphasized the importance of marriage. He argued against divorce, citing Genesis: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-7)
In Ephesians 5:32, Saint Paul wrote that this mystery — a man and woman becoming one flesh — “refers to Christ and the church.” In addition to these verses, the New Testament also attacks homosexual acts as sinful and the product of sin.
This is not to especially condemn those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Jesus insisted that even looking at a woman lustfully is sinful, and Saint Paul wrote that everyone has fallen short of the glory of God. Just because orthodox Christianity must disagree with the practice of gay marriage emphatically does not mean that gay people do not deserve equal rights or that they are irredeemable.
Importantly, the LGBT movement is not only pushing for equal rights — it is advocating special treatment. Those who oppose legalizing gay marriage are not calling for gay people to be treated like second-class citizens — they are calling for marriage to be treated as it has been defined: as being between one man and one woman.
Christians cannot embrace many of the goals of the LGBT movement, but we can and should treat gay and transgender people with respect, dignity, and love. Hatmaker was right to say the church needs to help them, but she went too far in suggesting homosexual relationships can be “holy” and in her (mostly laudable) hopes for her children.
This is the real reason why LifeWay dropped her work, and it makes sense that they did.