Pearls & Vodka

Jen Hatmaker and Billy Graham Walk Into a Bar…

Some of the best jokes start this way, am I right?

I’m sure Billy Graham needs no introduction, but some of you may be unfamiliar with Jen Hatmaker, so let me take a few minutes to give you some background.  Jen Hatmaker is a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter, speaker and author.  She is married to a preacher in Austin, Texas by the name of Brandon Hatmaker.  They have three biological children, and two adopted children from Ethiopia.  She and her family also appeared on HGTV’s “My Big Family Renovation.”

So why is Jen Hatmaker relevant today?

On April 25th, 2016, Religion News Service website published an article called, “Christian Author Jen Hatmaker takes stand for LGBT inclusion.”  I’ll get to why I think the title is an oxymoron shortly, but let me explain what all was in the article first.  The opinion article by Jonathan Merritt was in reference to Hatmaker’s Facebook post two days prior where she said, So whatever the cost and loss, this is where I am: gay teens? Gay adults? Mamas and daddies of precious gaybees? Friends and beloved neighbors of very dear LGBT folks? Here are my arms open wide. So wide that every last one of you can jump inside. You are so dear, so beloved, so precious and important. You matter so desperately and your life is worthy and beautiful.”  She concluded the post by saying, “Anyhow, my message to you today is simple, LGBT gang and all those who love you: You are loved and special and wanted and needed. The end.” [2] Since her post and follow up article of an interview with Merritt published in October of this year, LifeWay Christian Resources, a Southern Baptist chain, discontinued selling her books in all 185 of their stores and online as they said her statements “contradict LifeWay’s doctrinal guidelines.”  [1]

So why do I view the title of Merritt’s article as an oxymoron?  Glad you asked.

I am bewildered by the necessity of an article to declare a “Christian” taking a “stand” for “inclusion.”  Come on now.  The entire Christian faith is built on the premise that Jesus Christ, the Son of the ONE true God, came to Earth, died and was resurrected again paying the price for the sins of the world so that we might be saved.  The Christian faith teaches that Christ died for all sins, for all men, for all the world.  Call me crazy, but that would be the truest definition of “inclusion” I can think of.  As if His death wasn’t enough to show that Christianity should be identified by “inclusion,” His entire life on Earth, His entire ministry was flooded with “inclusion.”  Mark 2:15 says, “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him.”  In verse 16 the Scripture goes on to say that the Pharisees asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  And in verse 17, Jesus has a drop the mic moment when He says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  This is one of my favorite moments in Scripture.  I cling to these words of my Savior more times in a day than I can count.  You see, He came for EVERYONE.  Everyone was included.  No matter what they had done in life, there was no exclusion from His grace, no exclusion from His mercy, no exclusion from His salvation and most certainly, no exclusion from His friendship nor His love.

So what does all this have to do with Jen Hatmaker and Billy Graham walking into a bar?  You really ask great questions!

When asked by Jonathan Merritt if Hatmaker supports gay marriage she responded by saying, “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.”  [3] I know right now some of you who are my real “churchy” friends are having a stroke about this statement.  But what I hope you see is the same “inclusion” that our Savior showed when He was walking this earth.  This is not a conversation on what is right and what is wrong, or if God made Adam and Eve or Adam and Steve.  This is about the fact that we are all human, all falling short of the Glory of God and all in need of a Savior.  A Savior who chose “inclusion” over exclusion every single moment of his time on earth and still to this day chooses to include us in His salvation, never excluding anyone.

At the millions of crusades Billy Graham has preached at during his ministry he is known for saying, “God proved His love on the Cross.  When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”  Rev. Graham never said that God was saying to the world, “I love you if you love someone who is of the opposite sex.”  He said, “I love YOU” and inclusive YOU. [4]cf3116897cae6e12eb4c7af948014597

Billy Graham also is quoted as saying, “Courage is contagious.  When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”  [4] Financially, it wasn’t the easiest decision for Jen Hatmaker to take the stand she took.  She’s losing out on who knows how much profit on book sales by being banned from LifeWay.  Her comments, her opinion, and her beliefs on the matter of gay marriage and the LGBT community stiffened quite a few spines…I’ve read the posts, articles and tweets of many of those stiff spines.  The reality is I saw more of Jesus in Hatmaker’s post and article than in any of the critics’ responses.

God is a God of inclusion, and His followers should be also.

Cheers Jen and Rev. Graham!

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