Discussion: LifeWay’s Decision to Pull Jen Hatmaker’s Products

On October 25, this interview with Jen Hatmaker was published on religionnews.com.  In it, she talks about her views on Trump (dislikes) and Clinton (open to supporting), the Black Lives Matter movement (supports), and LGBT rights (supports).  Two days later, LifeWay pulled her materials from its stores because of her opinions on LGBT rights.

First off, let me just clarify that obviously, LifeWay is a private company.  They have every right to pick and choose what they make available to customers.  We live in a free country, and if LifeWay doesn’t want to sell a product for whatever reason, they are perfectly within their rights not to sell it.  I understand that.

That said, I think their choice was a little bit silly.  I looked through Jen Hatmaker’s website for the books she has written, and while I must admit I’ve never read any of them, none of the descriptions seem to insinuate that they have anything to do with what Christians should believe about the LGBT community.  They’re what you would expect from a well-established Christian author — devotionals for women of all ages, a 7-month plan to combat excess in 7 areas of life, and a few in depth Bible study books.  If you hadn’t read the interview, you would never know her views on LGBT people.

Second, Jen Hatmaker is not the only Christian who supports LGBT rights.  Those two things are not mutually exclusive.  By pulling her materials, LifeWay robs its customers of the freedom to choose their own Christian role models.  It’s almost as if they do not trust their customers to pick the “right” materials, even though the majority of their customers are church leaders who have had extensive training in ministry and theology.

Finally, a good friend brought up this question: if Hatmaker weren’t so high profile, would LifeWay would have cared about the interview?  Do they extensively research every single author, artist, and publisher whose products they carry, and reject them if they don’t exactly match what LifeWay believes?  If not, how do they know they aren’t carrying products by authors who are even more liberal than Jen Hatmaker?

By October 31, Hatmaker published the below post on her Facebook page in response to LifeWay’s actions.  In my eyes, she handled the ordeal with grace.

Hi, everyone.

A couple of quick thoughts on all these tender things:

1. First, regardless of what you see from strangers on the internet, our real friends and ministry partners and colleagues and fellow pastors have been across the board, carte blanche, by the dozens and dozens and dozens…kind and good to Brandon and I this week. Every one of them. We can’t even keep up with it. So know that regardless of headlines, we have very much experienced a faithful witness to Jesus through our friends in our real life this week. They give the church a beautiful name worthy of its source.

2. I’m not here to defend or explain right now. I have very open hands here. I have nothing to protect, nothing worth losing that I am not afraid to lose. I have zero agenda for myself. I don’t feel self-protective or defensive or scared or angry. I am neither trying to gain applause or start a war. Some people are throwing parades and some are burning books, but I am not motivated by either; I’m neither overly encouraged or overly discouraged. If you believe the hype, you have to also believe the hate, and neither is fully true. Some are certain I am after “the approval of people,” but here is the truth: I don’t love the approval of people, but I do love people. I love them because Jesus’ love for us is so insane and big and outside our templates and it reaches and reaches and reaches past our comforts to draw people to Him, and He does this with or without our permissions and sanctions and rules and hierarchies, and He has done it for all of time and will continue to do it for all of time. We are standing outside the city gates with people He asked us to stand with, and that is the beginning and end of it.

3. The time will come to discuss and talk about this together, but know this: we deeply, sincerely, with our minds and hearts both engaged, including perspectives all along the spectrum, in deep discussions with people we trust and respect, with prayer and careful study and deliberation moved into this space. We wrestled with and through Scripture, not around it. Our view of the Word is still very high, as is it for the hundreds of thousands of faithful believers who believe likewise.

4. Regardless of your position, please remember this as you respond, discuss, and take this conversation to both your Facebook walls and your dining room tables this week: all around you, the LGBTQ community is watching. They are listening. They are watching how we respond, how we talk about them, how we actually feel about them in our churches. They are your neighbors, your colleagues, they are in your churches already, some of them are in your homes, some of them are your children and you don’t know it. Most of them are quiet because they are scared. With good and obvious reason. But they are beautiful people loved by Jesus and no matter what, we should speak in a way befitting the way of grace, the same way that found and saved and redeemed and healed us too. Please don’t mistakenly take me to the mat in public or private and imagine it doesn’t carry weight with tender, beloved people who are bearing witness to all this.

I love you sincerely. I am always grateful to be your sister. All of you. And I hold those of you who are angry or shocked or confused with me this week very tenderly, too. I love you and I am here in the tension, committed to our little community and to all these sisters of mine. I am still here, hands open. Please remember with kindness and mercy the eyes on my page this week, so impossibly dear to God.

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