US Christian writer feels the full wrath of Trumpite evangelicals
Until the run-up to the US Presidential election last year Jen Hatmaker enjoyed enormous popularity as an evangelical author and speaker.
But things went horribly wrong when Hatmaker made it abundantly clear that she was no fan of Trump, and – worse still – had no problems with same-sex marriage.
Yesterday, Politico magazine detailed the backlash Hatmaker suffered as a result. Readers mailed back her books to her home address, but not before some burned the pages or tore them into shreds. She received death threats. LifeWay Christian Stores, the behemoth retailer of the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled her titles off the shelves.
Hatmaker was devastated. Up until that point, she had been a wildly influential and welcome presence in the evangelical world, a Christian author whose writings made the New York Times best-seller list and whose home renovation got its own HGTV series.
During the campaign, as other white evangelicals coalesced around the Republican nominee, Hatmaker effectively joined the coterie of “Never Trump” evangelicals, telling her more than half a million Facebook followers that Donald Trump made her:
Sad and horrified and despondent.
When the full weight of conservative Christian outrage crashed down her, Hatmaker’s life changed dramatically. It also impacted on her husband Pastor Brandon Hatmaker, who fully supported her belief that gay marriage can be as “holy” as any other.
She says people in her little town of Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, pulled her children aside and said terrible things about her and her husband. She was afraid to be in public, and she wasn’t sleeping or eating well.
Hatmaker recently told an audience in Dallas:
The way people spoke about us, it was as if I had never loved Jesus a day in my life.
The gilded auditorium was quiet, its 2,300 seats filled to capacity with nearly all women.
And I was just an ally. Think about how our gay brothers and sisters feel.
Hatmaker, writes Politico‘s Tiffany Stanley, has not backed down. In May, she posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing a black tank top with the words, “I ain’t sorry.” She has kept talking to the rump of her followers, many of them white and generally conservative Christian women, about supporting gun control, Black Lives Matter and refugees. At a time when the white evangelical share of the American electorate is on the decline, Hatmaker is out with a best-selling book, a top-rated podcast and a speaking tour that’s selling out.
Hatmaker remains an unlikely, and perhaps uncomfortable, member of the anti-Trump resistance. “I don’t know if I fit neatly into that space,” she says. While she’s against abortion, she takes pains to say she has an expansive view of what “pro-life” means. And she doesn’t think holding that view necessarily ties her to the GOP, even at a time when white evangelicals are as closely affiliated as ever with the Republican Party.
But maybe that’s the point. Hatmaker can reach her own demographic. In the greenroom before her meet-and-greet, she said, “For me it’s more like a constant prophetic responsibility to call evil, evil. To call racism, racism. And unfortunately, this seems to be happening on the daily.”
Does she still identify as evangelical? “It depends on your definition,” she says. She rejects the conservative political affiliation aligned with the term. “I think the way that most people would understand the word, I would say no, I do not identity with that label anymore. I just love Jesus.”
“I am still bewildered, and I don’t know what the future is,” Hatmaker says. “I do know that there seems to be a mass exodus from the evangelical brand right now. That could be my tribe that I’ve curated, so I hear that more. Because it seems like the good old boys are still thriving out in a world that I’m not involved in, so you know my perspective is narrow and biased, and I’m not sure what is actually true.” She adds, “I want to be hopeful though. I want to be hopeful that we are going to find our way back home and reclaim a lot of the credibility that we’ve lost.”